Trees

 

Trees are wonderful, life-giving, magical, legendary, spooky, and just plain interesting. Think of the Ents from The Lord of the Ring, the dryads of Narnia, Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, Harry Potter’s Whomping Willow, and Bilbo Baggins’s Party Tree.

See below for the science of trees, tree stories, tree poems, tree art projects, mathematical trees, tree houses, and more.

CELEBRATE TREES!

 images National Arbor Day usually falls on the last Friday in April – but some states base Arbor Day on their best tree-planting times. See When is Arbor Day in your state?
 images Visit the Arbor Day Foundation website for affordable trees, an informational tree guide, resources for connecting kids with nature, forest replanting programs, a history of the holiday, and more.
 imgres In Kathryn Galbraith’s Arbor Day Square (Peachtree Publishers, 2010), a small Nebraska prairie town has houses and barns, a store, a church, and a school with desks for seventeen children – but no trees. The townspeople, among them Katie and her father, raise money to order 15 saplings from back East and plant them in the town square. Time passes and the trees grow bigger and taller; Katie grows up, marries, and has a little daughter – who helps her grandfather plant new trees. An appendix explains the origin of Arbor Day, first celebrated in Nebraska in 1872. For ages 4-8.
 images As of 2013, the United Nations declared March 21 to be the International Day of Forests. From the Huffington Post, see background information and a photo-illustrated list of 21 Reasons to Celebrate the Value of Trees.

TREE PLANTERS

 imgres-1 Jerry Palotta’s Who Will Plant a Tree? (Sleeping Bear Press, 2010) is a picture-book account of a lot of surprising tree-planters, among them squirrels, bears, geese, ants, and dolphins. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-2 In Mary Ann Rodman’s A Tree for Emmy (Peachtree Publishers, 2009), Emmy wants her own pink-flowered mimosa tree like the one that grows in her grandmother’s yard – and that Gramma claims is a lot like Emmy herself, “stubborn and strong and a little bit wild.” To her dismay, no garden store sells mimosa trees – but finally she finds the solution: a little sapling to transplant and nurture on her own. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-3 By Jeanette Winter, Wangari’s Trees of Peace (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008) is a picture-book biography of Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her tree-planting program. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-4 By H. Joseph Hopkins, The Tree Lady (Beach Lane Books, 2013) is the picture-book story of tree-loving activist Kate Sessions, who grew up in California in the 1860s, went to college to study science, and finally moved to the desert town of San Diego, where she established a nursery and populated the town and surrounding area with trees. A great story about a little-known heroine for ages 5-8.
 imgres-5 Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees (Chelsea Green, 2007) is the story of Elzeard Bouffier who spent his life planting one hundred acorns a day – through both World Wars I and II – in a desolate stretch of southern France, eventually transforming the region into a green woodland. A hopeful account of one person making a great difference for ages 12 and up.
  Read The Man Who Planted Trees online.
 imgres-6 Project Plant It is elementary-school tree planting program. Included at the site are detailed lesson plans, a tree reading list, varied activities for kids, interactive games, and more. You can also request a free tree through the program, though these aren’t always available.

 ALL ABOUT TREES

 imgres-7 Christie Matheson’s Tap the Magic Tree (Greenwillow, 2013) is a fun interactive read in which kids are first told to tap a picture of a  bare brown tree and turn the page – and a green leaf appears. Readers tap, pat, rub, “blow a whooshing breeze,” shake, and close their eyes and count to ten and, as they do, the tree moves through the seasons, hosting a bird nest, sprouting flowers and ripening apples, until apples and leaves fall, and the bare tree is covered in snow. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-8 Janice May Urdry’s Caldecott-winning A Tree is Nice (HarperCollins, 1987) is a gentle picture-book account of all the wonderful things about trees – they fill up the sky, provide shade from the sun, houses for birds, and escape routes for cats. Kids can rake their leaves, climb them, swing from their branches, picnic at their feet. A charmer for ages 3-8.
 imgres-9 Joseph Anthony’s In a Nutshell (Dawn Publications, 1999) follows the life cycle of an oak tree, beginning with the fall of one plump little acorn, who lands on the forest floor and begins its struggle to get back to the sun. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-10 By Clyde Robert Bulla, A Tree Is a Plant (HarperCollins, 2001) in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series is a simple introduction to trees (“the biggest plant that grows”) for ages 4-7.
 imgres-11 In Zoe Hall’s The Apple Pie Tree (Blue Sky Press, 1996) two little girls watch their backyard apple tree through the seasons of the year, from leafless winter to the buds and blossoms of spring when robins arrive to build a nest, to ripening fruit in summer – and finally, in fall, harvest and an apple pie. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-12 In Gail Gibbons’s The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree (Sandpiper, 1998), the apple tree is Arnold’s special secret place. He builds a snow fort around it and hangs strings of popcorn on its branches for the birds in winter; in spring, he builds a swing; in summer, a treehouse; and in the fall he rakes leaves and picks apples. Included is a recipe for apple pie and an explanation of cider-making. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-13 The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree is a color-illustrated multidisciplinary lesson plan for elementary-level kids. Activities include determining the number of seeds in an apple, sprouting apple seeds, making “Apple Tree I.D.” pictures and apple sun catchers, and playing apple games. Included are printable worksheets.
 imgres-13 For many more resources on apples – including pie apples, Newton’s apple, and Johnny Appleseed – see APPLES ALL YEAR ROUND.
 imgres-14 Carol Reed-Jones’s The Tree in the Ancient Forest (Dawn Publications, 1995) is a cumulative environmental rhyme in the style of “This is the House That Jack Built,” that draws in all plants, animals, and features of the ancient forest. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-15 Lois Ehlert’s Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1991) is the simple story of a sugar maple from seed to sapling to tree, illustrated with colorful collages that incorporate real maples leaves and seeds. Included are instructions for planting a tree and making bird treats. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-16 Gail Gibbon’s Tell Me, Tree is a brightly illustrated introduction to trees covering the parts of trees, types of trees, tree shapes, seeds, bark, and fruit, and uses of trees. Included are attractive labeled diagrams, lots of tree facts, and helpful suggestions for making a personal tree identification book. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-17 In Barbara Brenner’s One Small Place in a Tree (HarperCollins, 2004), the “small place” is a hole in a tree, first scratched out by a bear, then hollowed by timber beetles. As the hole grows larger, it hosts animal after animal – salamanders, white-footed mice, bluebirds, squirrels, and snakes. For ages 4-8, who will then want to go look for holes in trees.
 imgres-18 Pam Marshall’s From Tree to Paper (Lerner Classroom, 2013), one of the extensive Start to Finish series, describes the process of papermaking in simple large print, illustrated with color photographs. For ages 4-8.
Paper Making Science Project has detailed instructions for making your own recycled paper. (That is, you start with paper scraps, not a tree.)
Also see Make Recycled Paper from the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
 imgres-19 Chiara Chevalier’s 48-page The Secret Life of Trees (Dorling Kindersley, 1999) is an informative read for beginners, illustrated with terrific color photographs and interesting facts in boxes. Did you know that when you look at a tree, you only see half of it? (The rest is underground.) For ages 5-7.
 imgres-20 Debbie Miller’s Are Trees Alive? (Walker Children’s Books, 2003) – inspired by a question asked by her young daughter – explains how trees are remarkably like people: they breathe, eat, and drink; the veins in their leaves are much like those in people’s hands; and their bark is the equivalent of skin. The book also takes readers on a tour of unusual trees around the world, among them the baobab, banyan, cocoa tree, weeping willow, paper birch, and sugar maple. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-21 Patricia Lauber’s Be a Friend to Trees (HarperCollins, 1994) in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series explains why trees are important, providing food (fruit, nuts, chocolate), shelter, homes for animals, and – by way of photosynthesis – oxygen, which we all need to breathe. Associated activities include planting a tree and recycling paper. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-6 In Susan Coolidge’s The Stories Trees Tell (Banjo Dog Press, 2008), five animal pals (Bear, Raccoon, Possum, Snake, and Woodpecker) come up with imaginative explanations for why trees are the way they are. “Meet my friend Chestnut Tree. Look at how her trunk splits and grows sideways. What could have happened to her?” While the five friends come up with their own imaginative explanations, multiple margin notes and photographs tell the actual facts about trees. Included are 15 pages of creative tree-based activities. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-22 In Betsy Maestro’s Why Do Leaves Change Color? (HarperCollins, 1994) in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, readers learn about the many different shapes of leaves (How many can you find?) and the process of fall color change, starting with chlorophyll and a cross-sectional diagram of a leaf. Included are instructions for making leaf rubbings and a pressed leaf collection. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-23 Diane Burns’s Trees, Leaves, and Bark (Cooper Square Publishing, 1995) is one of the “Take Along Guides” for young naturalists. The book introduces kids to 16 different trees and suggests a handful of activities: make a pinecone “snackbar” for birds and a bark rubbing, for example. For ages 5-10.
 imgres-24 Barbara Bash’s Tree Tales series (Sierra Club Books for Children) includes Ancient Ones: The World of the Old-Growth Douglas Fir, Tree of Life: The World of the African Baobab, and In the Heart of the Village: The World of the Indian Banyan Tree. In each, a combination of evocative prose and gorgeous watercolor paintings combine to tell the story of the tree and its surroundings. Readers learn, for example, that the Douglas fir is one of the largest living things on earth, taller than a twenty-story building, and that some live to be a thousand years old. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-25 Gina Ingoglia’s The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grownups (Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2013) first covers trees in general – why trees are important, why leaves change color, the process of photosynthesis – and then describes 33 different trees, each in a double-page spread. For each, readers learn about the tree’s anatomy and features, such as leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, and bark, as well as assorted cool facts. (Ground-up horse chestnuts make great library paste.) For all ages.
 imgres-26 Nancy Ross Hugo’s 200+-page Seeing Trees (Timber Press, 2011) is a guide to viewing – that is, really looking at – trees, concentrating on ten common varieties. Lavishly illustrated with fascinating color photographs showing a wealth of unexpected close-up details. Intended for adults, but the pictures are so intriguing that the book can be enjoyed by all ages.
 images-1 From Cornell, Know Your Trees is a free downloadable tree identification key.
 images-2 From the New York Times, Olivia Judson’s Tree-mendous is a great essay on the meaning and importance of trees.
At Forestry Focus, learn about Sacred and Magical Trees.
 imgres-27 Find out How Trees Affect the Weather with clear explanations, colorful diagrams, and a tree image gallery. Also included are lists of related links and sources.
Gold in Trees May Hint at Buried Treasure. Really! Read all about it.
How do trees respond to drought? They call for help. Literally. From National Geographic, read about it here.
 images-2 Real Trees 4 Kids has a lot of information on trees and tree farming, categorized by grade level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). Readers learn about tree anatomy, life cycles, and classification.
 imgres-28 What’s in the Amazon rain forest? 400 billion trees belonging to 16,000 different species, according to a new estimate. Read about it here.
 imgres-29 The Oldest Trees on the Planet is an annotated photo gallery – among them the incredible 4765-year-old California Methuselah tree.
 images-2 From SciStarter, Citizen Science Does Grow on Trees has a short list of citizen science projects for tree fans of all ages. Also see the New York Botanical Garden’s citizen science program, Listening to the Trees.

TREE LESSON PLANS

 images-2 Talk About Trees is a collection of nine downloadable lesson plans (with printable worksheets) on such topics as the forest food web, photosynthesis, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and forest natural disasters. Included are activities, games, and lists of additional resources. Targeted at elementary-level kids.
 images-2 From Penn State, Forestry/Natural Resources Lesson Plans is an extensive collection, variously for grades K-5. Titles include Forest Stewardship, The History of Maple Syrup, Seasons of Trees, Trees and Their Parts, Tree Growth, Trees to Paper, Leaf Identification, and Build a Forest.
 images-2 Lesson Plans for Forest-Minded Teachers has a long detailed list, variously for grades K-12.
 images-2 From the Society of American Foresters, Tool for Teachers has comprehensive lesson plans and science fair projects for elementary-, middle-, and high-school-level students.
 images-2 From Education World, Trees Sprout Classroom Lessons Throughout the Year is a collection of five detailed lessons about trees. How Does Your Tree Measure Up?, for example, is a math-based lesson for grades 3-12 in which kids calculate the height of a tree, the area of its leaf cover, the number of leaves on the tree, the average size of a leaf, and more.
 imgres-28 The Rain Forest Alliance Curriculum has detailed lesson plans for grades K-8 with many downloadable resources. Topics covered include rainforest trees and animals, coffee and chocolate, biodiversity, deforestation, and more.
 imgres-30 For elementary students, the Inside a Tree Lesson Plan explains the layers of a tree trunk and their functions and has an activity in which kids make “tree cookies” from play dough or clay.

FICTIONAL TREES

 imgres-31 By Dorothea Warren Fox, Miss Twiggley’s Tree (Purple House Press, 2002) – originally published in 1966 – is a perfect delight. Told in bouncy rhyme, it’s the story of the shy and unconventional Miss Twiggley who lives in a tree with her dog and some supportive bears. (“Funny Miss Twiggley/Lived in a tree/With a dog named Puss/And a color TV./She did what she liked and she liked what she did/But when company came/Miss Twiggely hid.”) When the town is flooded, however, Miss Twiggely (and bears) come to the rescue. For ages 3 and up (and up).
 imgres-32 In Leo Lionni’s The Alphabet Tree (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), each letter has a favorite leaf on the alphabet tree – until a gale-force wind swoops in and blows them all over the place. The solution is cooperation, as the letters band together to form words. For ages 3-7.
  The Alphabet Tree has multidisciplinary extension activities to accompany the book, among them learning about seasons, creating story sequence cards, making a word tree poster, and studying tree growth and planting seeds.
  For more alphabet resources, see ABC: The Alphabet (and Beyond).
 imgres-33 In Oliver Jeffers’s Stuck (Philomel, 2011), when Floyd’s kite becomes stuck in a tree, he hurls things after it, which all become stuck in turn – shoes, the kitchen sink, a boat, a rhinoceros, a lighthouse, a whale. Hilarious for ages 3-7.
  Listen to Stuck read by Oliver Jeffers on YouTube.
  Teaching Ideas: Stuck has resources and activities to accompany the book, variously categorized under Literacy, Math, Science, Technology, Art, Geography, Physical Education, and Foreign Languages.
 imgres-34 In Julia Rawlinson’s Fletcher and the Falling Leaves (Greenwillow, 2008), Fletcher – an adorable little fox – is convinced that his favorite tree is sick: its leaves are turning brown. His mother assures him that this is normal in autumn, but frantic Fletcher isn’t convinced, and as the leaves inevitably fall, he does his best to stick them back on the tree. Finally, despite his best efforts, the last leaf falls – but when Fletcher next visits his tree, he finds it covered with glittering (with real sparkle) icicles that laugh happily when Fletcher asks the tree if it is all right. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-35 Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax (Random House, 1971) – which features the Lorax, who speaks for the trees – may be everyone’s all-time favorite environmental picture book. For ages 4-8.
  The 2012 movie version of The Lorax is rated PG. It’s not as good as the book.
 imgres-36 In Alan Zweibel’s Our Tree Named Steve (Puffin, 2007), Steve, the tree, is felled by lightning and the family recalls all that Steve has meant to them over the years, providing everything from a swing to a camp site to a hammock stand for fat Uncle Chester to a meeting place for young lovers. At the end, Steve’s wood becomes a playhouse. Love and loss, with gentle humor, for ages 4-8.
 imgres-37 Lynne Cherry’s The Great Kapok Tree (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000) is the story of a man who has come to the rain forest to chop down the great kapok tree, but instead falls asleep at its foot. As he sleeps, animal after animal arrives to plead for the life of the tree – snakes, monkeys, birds, frogs, butterflies, and a jaguar all join in – and when the man awakes, now knowing the importance of the tree to so many creatures, he shoulders his ax and walks away. A beautiful and thought-provoking picture book for ages 4-8.
 imgres-38 In Patricia Polacco’s The Bee Tree (Puffin, 1998), Mary Ellen is tired of reading and wants to go outdoors – so her grandfather decides that it’s the perfect time to hunt for a bee tree. Soon they’ve gathered a crowd of people and animals following behind them, all out to find some honey. (There’s also a nice little moral at the end about the joys of reading.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-39 Lori Mortensen’s In the Trees, Honey Bees! (Dawn Publications, 2009) is a simple rhyming account of the life of a wild bee colony living in a bee tree; fact boxes provide more information for older children. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-40 For many more resources on bees and honey, see THE BUZZ ON BEES.
 imgres-41 In Bill Peet’s Farewell to Shady Glade (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981), a host of forest animals, led by a raccoon, are about to lose their home to land developers with bulldozers. They set out by train to find a new home. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-42 In Ted Kooser’s House Held Up by Trees (Candlewick, 2012), a man struggles to keep his yard free of tree seedlings, while his children play in the woods adjoining his property. Finally the children grow up, the man leaves the house, and the property is abandoned – at which point the trees take over and slowly, inexorably, surround the house, hold it together, and lift it off the ground. A story of the power of the wild for ages 4-9.
 imgres-43 Leo Buscaglia’s The Fall of Freddie the Leaf (Slack, Inc., 1982) is a gentle explanation of the nature of death, through the tale of Freddie, a leaf whose time has come to fall. For ages 4 and up.
 imgres-45 Jane Ray’s Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2005) is a beautifully illustrated version of the Christian creation story, featuring a famously forbidden tree. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-44 In Arthur Levine’s Pearl Moscowitz’s Last Stand (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), feisty Pearl goes into action when the city threatens to cut down the last lone gingko tree on her multicultural urban block. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-46 The star of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree (Harper & Row, 2014) is a kind and generous tree who loves a little boy. At first, he plays with her leaves and climbs on her branches; then as he grows older, he demands more and more from the tree: her apples to bring him money; her branches to build a house; her trunk to build a boat. Finally, the man is old and the tree has nothing more to give him – except her stump, which provides a place to sit. There he sits, “and the tree was happy.” A discussion-promoter for ages 5 and up.
  See The Giving Tree on YouTube narrated by Shel Silverstein.
  From the Teaching Children Philosophy website, The Giving Tree page has a summary, background guidelines for philosophical discussion, and a list of questions for readers.
 imgres-47 In Roald Dahl’s The Minpins (Puffin, 2009), Little Billy – despite awful warnings from his mother – goes into the Forest of Sin where, living in the tops of the trees, he discovers the Minpins, an entire village of miniature people who scamper around in the branches wearing little green boots equipped with suction cups. They are terrified by a monster, the Red-Hot Smoke-Belching Gruncher, and when Billy manages to dispatch it, he ends up with a liberating reward (magical nightly rides on the back of a swan). For ages 5-9.
 images-3 By Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths (New York Review Children’s Collection, 2005) is a marvelously illustrated collection of tales of Norse gods, goddesses, and giants, including the story of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. For ages 5 and up.
 imgres-48 In Florence Parry Heide’s Treehorn’s Treasure (Pomegranate, 2011), Treehorn stashes his allowance in a hole in a tree and discovers that the tree is now sprouting dollar bills. His parents, however, refuse to believe him. Heide’s Treehorn stories are gems, starring the commonsensical Treehorn, who deals calmly with fantastic situations, and his oblivious parents. With great illustrations by Edward Gorey. For ages 7 and up.
 imgres-49 Linda Lowery’s The Chocolate Tree (Millbrook Press, 2009) is a retelling of a Mayan folktale about how the god Kukulkan brought the gift of chocolate to the people – in spite of the protests of the other gods, notably Kukulkan’s brother, Night Jaguar. For ages 7-10.
  For more on chocolate and the chocolate tree, see Robert Burleigh’s nonfiction Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest (Harry N. Abrams, 2002). For ages 8-11.
  For many more resources on this topic, see CHOCOLATE. (It’s not just for Valentine’s Day.)
 imgres-50 The main character of Carolyn Sherwin Bailey’s Miss Hickory (Puffin, 1977), which won the Newbery Award in 1947, is a doll – a notably cross and cantankerous doll – whose body is made from an apple-wood twig and head from a hickory nut. Left behind when her owners move to Boston, Miss Hickory must fend for herself during the cold New Hampshire winter. She does so, with the help of assorted animals, and even eventually begins to amend her not-always-admirable ways. At the end, however – SPOILER – a squirrel eats Miss Hickory’s head, at which point she has an epiphany about the meaning of her life; her headless twig body then wanders off and is grafted onto an apple tree, where it begins to grow. Many people love this book; I have mixed feelings about it, having been horrified when I was eight by Miss Hickory’s sudden end. A discussion-promoter for ages 7-12.
 imgres-51 In Mildred D. Taylor’s Song of the Trees (Puffin, 2003), the Logan family of Mississippi – in a prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – struggles with poverty, racism, the Depression, and the absence of Papa, who has gone to Louisiana to make money working for the railroad. Cassie, however, finds comfort from the great trees that surround their house, that seem to her to sing a special song (though others say it’s just the wind). Then Mr. Andersen, a local white businessman, tries to force Cassie’s Big Ma to sell the beloved trees for lumber. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-52 In T.A. Barron’s Tree Girl (Philomel, 2001), all nine-year-old Anna knows of her past is that crochety Master Mellwyn found her as a baby, lying in the roots of a willow tree. Now he warns her to stay away from the forest, which he claims is full of threatening tree ghouls – but Anna is drawn to the forest, believing it holds the secret of her mother. A short chapter fantasy for ages 8-12.
 imgres-53 In Kate Klise’s Regarding the Trees (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007), the principal of Geyser Creek Middle School wants to trim trees on the school property, and so enlists the help of Ms. Florence Waters (first encountered in Klise’s Regarding the Fountain). Many misunderstandings ensue. The story is told through a creative mix of letters, announcements, newspaper clippings, and the like, with a lot of intercalated info about real trees, family trees, and Italian. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-54 In S. Terrell French’s Operation Redwood (Amulet, 2011), 12-year-old Julian discovers by means of an intercepted email (calling his uncle a world-class jerk) that his uncle’s company plans to cut down a grove of old-growth California redwood trees. In company with new homeschooled friend Robin – who lives near the grove – Julian and friends embark on a campaign to save the trees. A great eco-adventure for ages 9-12.
 imgres-55 The star of Rumer Godden’s The Doll’s House (Puffin, 1976) is Tottie Plantagenet, a little wooden doll, who in times of trouble remembers the tree from which she was made, standing tall against the storm. (“A little of that tree is in me,” thought Tottie.) Tottie needs all her tree’s bravery and determination when she and her family run up against the elegant, but evil, Marchpane. For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-56 In Natalie Standiford’s The Secret Tree (Scholastic, 2014), ten-year-old Minty discovers the Secret Tree – a strange hollow tree filled with slips of paper holding people’s secrets. (“I put a curse on my enemy. And it’s working.”) Minty sets out to solve the mystery of the secrets, struggles to understand the strange goings-on around town (what about the weird inhabitant of the Witch House?), befriends a parentless boy named Raymond, and deals with the ups and downs of friends and family. A coming-of-age story for ages 9-12.
 imgres-57 In Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain (Puffin, 2004), young Sam Gribley – miserable in the crowded city – runs away to the Catskill Mountains where he sets up house in a hollow tree. He copes with difficulties and dangers, makes unexpected friends – including a young falcon and a lost-in-the-woods English professor (who calls Sam “Thoreau”). A wonderful story of adventure and independence for ages 9-12. (The first of a trilogy.)
 imgres-58 Toby Alone by Timothée de Fombelle (Candlewick Press, 2009) features a world of extremely small – no more than two millimeters tall – people who live in a vast oak known simply as the Tree. The tree is in political and social turmoil: thirteen-year-old Toby’s scientist parents have been captured and imprisoned, and he is alone and on the run. The root of the problem is politician/industrialist Joe Mitch, who is bent on exploiting the sap of the Tree for business purposes – a project that will inevitably kill it. Despite its minuscule characters, the book has more in common with 1984 than The Borrowers. This is a complex and sometimes violent story about the uses and abuses of power, and the consequences of environmental destruction. A thought-provoking read for ages 12 and up. The sequel – you’ll want it, since Toby Alone ends with a cliffhanger – is Toby and the Secrets of the Tree.
  For more resources on tiny (or at least little) people, see VERY LITTLE PEOPLE: BORROWERS, LILLIPUTIANS, AND TOM THUMB.
 imgres-59 Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (HarperPerennial, 2006) – originally published in 1943 – is the wonderful coming-of-age story of young Francie Nolan, growing up in the slums of turn-of-the-century New York City. A recurring metaphor is that of the Tree of Heaven – the ailanthus – a tree so tough and determined that it manages to sprout and thrive in the unwelcoming cement of city streets. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-60 In Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Word for World is Forest (Tor Books, 2010), humans have taken over the tree-covered planet of Athshe, whose small furry green inhabitants pursue a peaceful lifestyle that involves a state of lucid dreaming – “dream-time” – and ritual singing. Enslaved by the invaders, the Athsheans finally revolt. There are analogies to the treatment of native Americans by the Europeans and to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. A powerful book for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-61 There are similar themes in James Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar, in which humans are exploiting the planet Pandora for a rare mineral (unobtanium) and in the process are destroying the native inhabitants, the Na’vi, tall blue-skinned humanoids who live in harmony with nature and worship the Hometree. Rated PG-13.

 SPOOKY TREES

 imgres-62 By Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault, The Ghost-Eye Tree (Square Fish, 1988) is a story-poem about a little boy and his older sister, sent out at night to fetch a bucket of milk, which involves passing the the truly creepy Ghost-Eye tree (“feared by all/the great and small”). The little boy wears his special hat, which makes him feel safer, even though his sister tells him it makes him look stupid. An owl panics them; he loses the hat; and his sister bravely goes back to retrieve it. A wonderfully illustrated account of being scared of the dark by a very spooky tree. For ages 4-8.
For more spooky resources, see GHOSTS!
 imgres-63 Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree (Yearling, 1999) is the eerie tale of eight boys on Halloween night, headed for a haunted house – where they meet the skeletal Mr. Moundshroud and encounter the Halloween tree, hung with grinning jack-o-lanterns. The book traces the history of Halloween customs from the ancient Egyptians to the Mexican Day of the Dead. Eerie and wonderful for ages 9-12.
Madagascar’s Legendary Man-eating Tree is a hoax, dating to 1881. But it’s still an interesting story.

THROUGH HISTORY WITH TREES

 imgres-64 By author/musician Dana Lyons, The Tree (Illumination Arts, 2002) is told in the voice of an ancient Douglas fir: “For eight hundred years I have lived here/Through the wind, the fire, and the snow.” An inspiration for young environmentalists, illustrated with wonderful pictures of awesome trees. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-65 Karen Gray Ruelle’s The Tree (Holiday House, 2008) is a journey through time with the oldest elm tree in New York City, which sprouted 250 years ago on land that is now part of Madison Square Park. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-66 Holling C. Holling’s Tree in the Trail (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1990) – originally published in 1942 – is a 200+-year history of the Santa Fe Trail as experienced by a cottonwood tree, from the buffalo and Kansa Indians to the Spanish conquistadors, French trappers, and Conestoga wagon trains. Heavily illustrated with colorful paintings, sketches, maps, and diagrams. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-67 In Rudyard Kipling’s classic Puck of Pook’s Hill – available in many editions – Dan and Una are performing a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Puck himself appears. Puck – who swears by the ancient English trees, oak and ash and thorn – magically conjures up people and stories from old English history for the children: Normans and Saxons, Roman soldiers and Picts, Vikings, explorers, and pirates, the signing of the Magna Carta. Included are wonderful poems, among them ”A Tree Song,” “A Smuggler’s Song,” and “The Bee-Boy’s Song.” For ages 9 and up.
  Read Puck of Pook’s Hill online here at Project Gutenberg.

 TREE POEMS

 imgres-68 Thom Wiley’s The Leaves on the Trees (Cartwheel Books, 2011) can be sung to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus” – “The leaves on the tree are falling down/falling down/falling down/Autumn is here!” For ages 3-5.
 imgres-69 By Kristine O’Connell George, Old Elm Speaks (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007) is an illustrated collection of short poems celebrating trees. “Oak’s Introduction,” for example, speaks directly to the reader: “I’ve been wondering/when you’d notice/me standing here. I’ve been waiting/watching you/grow taller. I have grown too/My branches/are strong. Step closer./Let’s see/how high/you can/climb.” For ages 4-9.
 imgres-70 Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Forest Has a Song (Clarion Books, 2013) is a collection of 26 short poems about the forest and its inhabitants, from chickadees and frogs to moss and trees. Illustrated with lovely stylized watercolor paintings. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-71 Selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, The Tree That Time Built (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009) is an illustrated collection of over 100 poems about the natural world by such poets as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Eve Merriam, and Ogden Nash. See the “Think Like a Tree” section for many poems about trees. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-72 See Joyce Kilmer’s Trees, which begins “I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree.”
 imgres-73 Pair it with Ogden Nash’s Song of the Open Road. You’ll see why.
 imgres-74 I’ve always loved Philip Larkin’s The Trees. (“Last year is dead, they seem to say/Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”)

MATHEMATICAL TREES

 imgres-75 At the Math Playground, experiment with Factor Trees.
 trees1 From the American Mathematical Society, learn all about the many different kinds of mathematical trees at Trees: A Mathematical Tool for All Seasons. For older students.
 imgres-76 From Khan Academy’s (delightful) Doodling in Math with mathemusician Vi Hart, learn about Binary Trees.
 imgres-77 Counting Trees is an excellent math lesson on estimation based on a tree farm. Included are printable worksheets, data sheets, and questionnaires.

TREES AND ART

 imgres-78 Barbara Reid’s Picture a Tree (Albert Whitman & Company, 2013) points out that “There is more than one way to picture a tree” – as a “sun umbrella” or a high-rise apartment for birds and animals; as a baby, a teenager, or a grandfather; as a “wild good-bye party” as its brilliantly colored leaves blow away in the wind in fall. Wonderful creative illustrations modeled in Plasticine. For ages 4-7.
Creating Picture a Tree is a YouTube video showing how Reid’s Plasticine illustrations are put together.
 imgres-79 By Morteza E. Sohi, Look What I Did with a Leaf! (Walker Children’s Books, 1995) has great suggestions for making collage animals – butterflies, fish, peacocks, cows – with leaves. Included are instructions, a simple identification guide, and an account of the life cycle of a leaf. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-80 Thomas Locker and Candace Christiansen’s Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art (HarperCollins, 2001) traces a single tree through the seasons of the year, pairing Locker’s gorgeous oil paintings with a brief descriptive text. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-81 From Steve Spangler Science, find out How To Make a Newspaper Tree. You’ll need newspaper, scissors, tape, and a cardboard tube.
 imgres-82 See Kirigami: The Ancient Art of Paper Cutting for a lesson in how to make a stylized kirigami tree.
 tree2 From the Incredible @rt Department, Emily Carr Trees is an art project in which participants make watercolor paintings based on the tree landscapes of Canadian artist Emily Carr. The website has instructions, examples of tree pictures, and a Power Point presentation on Carr.
 tree1 For images of ten famous trees in art, see Relevant Trees in Art History.
Trees in Nature and Art is an interactive online lesson plan in which kids (in grades 5-8) explore the use of trees in the arts, learn about the science of forestry, collect leaves, create leaf-based art, and write tree poems.
On Pinterest, see this particularly gorgeous collection of Tree Art Lesson Ideas.
 AutumnTreeCollage9RS6k From Busy Bee, Tree Crafts for Kids include an Autumn Tree Collage, a flip-book-style seasonal Changing Tree, a Falling Leaves project (the leaves really fall), a Japanese Cherry Tree picture, Tie-Dyed Leaves, and more.
 palmtree-step4 From First Palette, Making Plants and Trees for a Diorama has step-by-step instructions for making great plants, flowers, and trees from paper, crepe paper, and craft foam.
 6a00d8341cc08553ef0133f0776978970b-800wi The Crafty Crow’s Trees! has an assortment of great tree crafts, including 3-D paper trees and a mod podged hand tree.
 Spring-Cherry-Tree-11 Tree Activities for Kids is a long list including science explorations, craft projects, paintings, and learning and book-related activities.
 imgres-83 From DLTK’s Crafts, Famous Art Work: Tree Themes has images of works by famous artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Gustav Klimt,  and coloring pages and art projects based on their trees.
 arborday1small Make Recycled Paper Trees.
 fall-tree-3-dimensional-project-fall-crafts-for-kids1-300x225 These Fall Tree Crafts for Kids include a Fingerprint Fall Tree, Marshmallow Stamped Apple Trees, and Button Branches.

TREE HOUSES

 imgres-84 Andrew Larsen’s In the Tree House (Kids Can Press, 2013) is a story of two brothers, a tree house, and growing up. Narrated by the younger boy, the book describes how the family moved to a new house with a very tall tree, made plans for a spectacular tree house, and finally built one – and there the kids had great times. Then the older brother stopped visiting the tree house, preferring to hang out with new friends – until one night there’s a power outage. Together again, the boys have one more happy night in the tree house. A sweet and nostalgic story for ages 5-8.
 imgres-85 In Doris Burn’s Andrew Henry’s Meadow (Philomel, 2012), originally published in 1965, Andrew Henry’s inventions wreak so much havoc at home that, feeling unwanted and unloved, he sets off in search of a place of his own. He finds a sequestered meadow where he builds himself a wonderful little house. Soon other kids show up and he builds houses for them too, all peculiarly suited to their hobbies – Alice, a bird-lover, for example, gets a fabulous tree house surrounded by birdbaths and feeders, with a balcony just for bird-watching. Eventually the kids’ parents miss them and come to find them – and finally Andrew Henry, now appreciated, is given his own basement workshop at home. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-86 In Gertrude Chandler Warner’s Tree House Mystery (Albert Whitman & Company, 1990), 14th in the Boxcar Children series, the four children acquire a tree house and a spyglass, and discover a mysterious secret room in the house next door. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-87 In Andy Griffiths’s The 13-Story Treehouse (Feiwel and Friends, 2013), Andy and Terry live in the world’s most spectacular tree house – 13 stories of it, complete with bowling alley, shark tank, theatre, secret underground laboratory, and marshmallow machine. Zany adventures, lots of humor, and cartoon illustrations. There’s a sequel: The 26-Story Treehouse. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-88 David Stiles’s How to Build Treehouses, Huts and Forts (Lyons Press, 2003) provides detailed instructions for building an exciting range of kid-friendly structures, among them a lookout tower and (got snow?) an igloo.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in History, Holidays, Literature, Plants, Science | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Penguins

 

Penguins! See below for penguin books, penguin math, penguin science, penguin crafts, and where to buy a genuine made-by-a-penguin painting.

FICTIONAL PENGUINS

 imgres In Salina Yoon’s Penguin and Pinecone (Walker Children’s Books, 2012), a little penguin in a fuzzy orange scarf finds a “curious object” in the snow. It’s a pinecone and the two form an unlikely friendship – though Penguin’s Grandpa explains that a pinecone can only thrive in a warmer forest “far, far away.” Finally Penguin takes his friend there and leaves him – only to return, years later, to find a tall pine tree with a fuzzy orange scarf tied around the top. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-1 In Antoinette Portis’s A Penguin Story (HarperCollins, 2008), Edna, a penguin – yearning for something other than white ice, black night, and blue sea – sets out in search of color. She finds it in an orange Antarctic research station – but that only makes her wonder what else might be out there. For dreamers ages 4-7.
 imgres-2 The title character of Helen Lester’s Tacky the Penguin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1990) is a nonconformist penguin who sports a gaudy Hawaiian short and doesn’t fall in line with his elegant penguin compatriots, Goodly, Neatly, Perfect, Lovely, and Angel. However, the wildly unconventional Tacky proves his worth when a gang of hunters arrive. For ages 4-8.
  Tacky the Penguin is a Reader’s Theater play based on the book, with parts for five narrators, six penguins, and four hunters.
  The Tacky the Penguin Activity Kit has party ideas, Tacky-friendly recipes, printable puzzles and stick puppets, and a complete list of the Tacky the Penguin books.
 imgres-3 Janet Perlman’s Cinderella Penguin (Puffin, 1995) is a perfectly delightful retelling of the Cinderella story, complete with a charming penguin prince, a fairy godmother penguin, and a little glass flipper. For ages 4 and up.
  For many more versions of Cinderella, see FAIRY TALES.
 imgres-4 In Polly Dunbar’s Penguin (Candlewick, 2010), Penguin is Ben’s disappointing birthday present – nothing Ben does will make Penguin speak a word (or even giggle). He tries to amuse Penguin; he makes fun of Penguin; he ignores Penguin – but Penguin says nothing. Until, that is, a passing lion eats Ben, and Penguin comes to the rescue. You’ll love Dunbar’s deadpan Penguin illustrations. For ages 4-8.
  See Dunbar’s Penguin on YouTube. It’s a charmer.
 imgres-5 In Jean-Luc Fromental’s hilarious 365 Penguins (Harry N. Abrams, 2006), on New Year’s Day, a delivery man drops off a box containing a penguin – and an anonymous note that reads “I’m number 1. Feed me when I’m hungry.” There follow deliveries of penguin after penguin, one for each day of the year – with a lot of accompanying mathematical scramble to organize and care for the rapidly accumulating penguins.  (Pack them into a 216-penguin cube?) The puzzle is finally solved at the end of the year – it’s a plan of Uncle Victor, the ecologist, to secretly export endangered penguins to the North Pole. Off he goes with the birds and all is peaceful – until a delivery man rings the doorbell and drops off one polar bear. For ages 4-9.
 images In Toni Buzzeo’s One Cool Friend (Dial, 2012), very proper, bowtie-wearing Elliot falls for the elegant penguins at the zoo – and gets permission from his distracted father (he’s on a bench, reading National Geographic) to have a penguin of his own. Rather than a plush penguin from the gift shop, Elliot picks one from the penguin pool and pops it into his backpack. Elliot figures out how to raise his penguin in his room (with ice and frozen anchovy pizzas) and names him Magellan. It all looks like a perfect storm of misunderstandings between father and son – until, at the end, readers discover that Elliot’s father has been concealing a Galapagos tortoise named Captain Cook. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-6 By Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Little, Brown, 1992) – originally published in 1938 – is the story of a house painter who dreams of polar exploration, and who receives as a present from explorer Admiral Drake a penguin named Captain Cook. Eventually a mate is found for Captain Cook and soon the Poppers have an entire family of penguins – at which point Mr. Popper, strapped for cash, decides to turn the penguins into a circus act and take the show on the road. For ages 7-11.
  The 2011 movie version of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, with Jim Carrey as Mr. Popper, is rated PG. Only vaguely based on the book.

 NONFICTIONAL PENGUINS

 imgres-7 By Florence Minor – and illustrated with wonderful paintings by Wendell Minor – If You Were a Penguin (Katherine Tegen Books, 2008) is a delightful account of all the things you could do if only you were a penguin, from flying underwater to tobogganing in the snow to singing a duet. Included are lists of Penguin Fun Facts and informational penguin websites. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-8 In Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three (Simon and Schuster, 2005) – based on a true story from New York City’s Central Park Zoo – a pair of male penguins share a nest. Given an egg to nurture by a sympathetic zookeeper, the two hatch a little daughter, Tango, who becomes the only penguin chick in the zoo to have “two daddies.” A sweet, though much-contested, story for ages 4-7.
 imgres-9 Jean Marzollo’s rhyming Pierre Penguin (Sleeping Bear Press, 2010) is based on the true story of an African penguin at the California Academy of Sciences who begins to lose his feathers, and soon is too cold to swim. A creative biologist comes up with a clever solution: a little penguin wetsuit. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-10 Betty Tatham’s Penguin Chick (HarperCollins, 2001) – in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series – is a simple nonfiction account of the laying and hatching of a emperor penguin’s egg. Illustrated with watercolor paintings. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-11 Martin Jenkins’s The Emperor’s Egg (Candlewick, 2002) is the story of how the male emperor penguin – largest of all penguins – spends two months without food, standing with an egg on his feet. For ages 4-9.
 imgres-12 Anne Schreiber’s Penguins (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009) covers, in 32 creatively designed pages, where penguins live, what they eat, and how they spend their lives. Included are maps, boxes of useful “Bird Words,” and a lot of great color photographs. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-13 For the same age group, also see Gail Gibbons’s Penguins! (Holiday House, 1999).
 imgres-14 Seymour Simon’s Penguins (HarperCollins, 2009) covers all the basics of penguins with an informational text, full-page color photographs, and lots of fascinating facts. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-16 By field biologist and penguin addict Wayne Lynch, Penguins! (Firefly Books, 1999) covers – in 64 pages – penguin families, locomotion, food, mating habits, and enemies. Illustrated with color photographs. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-15 Also by Wayne Lynch, Penguins of the World (Firefly Books, 2007) has more detailed information for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-17 Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears focuses on penguins who don’t live in Antarctica. Included at the website are project suggestions and a reading list.
 imgres-18 Check out Live Penguin Cams from the California Academy of Science.
 images-1 From LiveScience, Penguins has a collection of excellent articles (with photos and video clips) on many aspects of penguins.
 imgres-17 Penguin Sentinels is an informational article and video on temperate Galapagos penguins.

 MATHEMATICAL PENGUINS

 imgres-5 See 365 Penguins, above.
 images-2 From Mathwire, Penguin Math has a range of math games and activities. For example, learn coordinate graphing with a game of “Capture the Penguin” or measure the world in penguin feet. (Some broken links, but still worth a visit.)
 imgres-19 Math Ideas for Penguin Theme has printable game pieces and instructions, a penguin tangram puzzle, penguin graphing exercises, patterning and counting activities, and more.
 images-3 From HoodaMath, Penguin Jump is a multiplication game with multicolored penguins.
 penguins3 From Coolmath, Penguin Families is a logic game in which small penguins must be moved via ice floe from one shore to the other. Tricky.
 imgres-20 From Starship Maths, Place the Penguins is a number place game (ones, tens, and one hundreds) in which players drag penguins into place to make numbers.
 imgres-21 Peabody the Penguin is a multiplication game in which players help Peabody collect fish while avoiding sea lions.

ART, CRAFTS, AND PENGUINS

 mfingerprintpenguin From Artists Helping Children, Penguin Crafts is a long list, including gourd penguins, fingerprint penguins, penguin puppets, papier-mache penguins, and more.
From Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears, Polar Arts and Crafts has instructions for making polar salt-dough maps, paper snowflakes, 3-D penguins, and more.
 FI418Q8HAQ3DAVK.MEDIUM Make a Footprint Penguin.
 FK0MOFEHAQ3DARG.MEDIUM From Instructables, step-by-step instructions for making an Egg Carton Penguin.
 6a00d8341cc08553ef016760eda83e970b-800wi From the Crafty Crow, Penguin and Polar Bear Crafts include potato-print penguins, penguin bean bags, and toilet-paper-tube penguins.
 586x388xPenguin-Art-Project.jpg.pagespeed.ic.V6TWWPcdEE From Deep Space Sparkle, see these instructions for making wonderful Penguin Collages.
 imagepic-PArt-P3-8x10 Penguin Picassos? Check out Penguin Art from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Included: a penguin art gallery and (affordable) penguin paintings for sale.
Also see Penguin Art from the Mystic Aquarium (includes a video of a painting penguin).

POETIC PENGUINS

 imgres-22 By Judy Sierra, Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008) is a catchy illustrated collection (with real penguin facts) for ages 4-8.
 images-4 Penguin poems aren’t just for kids. See Magellanic Penguin by Pablo Neruda.
 imgres-23 From William Jay Smith’s Laughing Time: Collected Nonsense (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1953), see Penguin and Polar Bear. (“I think it must be very nice/To stroll about upon the ice/Night and day, day and night/Wearing only black and white…”)

PENGUINS IN THE MOVIES

 imgres-24 The 2006 movie Happy Feet stars a tap-dancing emperor penguin named Mumble. Rated PG.
 imgres-24 Happy Feet is a multidisciplinary educator’s guide to accompany the movie, with writing exercises, simple science experiments, recipes, crafts, printable puzzles, and a resource list.
 imgres-25 National Geographic’s March of the Penguins is a stunning documentary about the penguins’ annual quest to find mates and raise chicks. Available on DVD or as an Amazon Instant Video. See the website for accompanying games and activities.
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Paul Revere

 

Who doesn’t love Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Listen, my children, and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”? See below for books, projects, and cool information on Paul Revere – and on the American Revolution’s other riders. Paul wasn’t the only one…

 

BOOKS: NON-FICTION

 imgres David A. Adler’s A Picture Book of Paul Revere (Holiday House, 1997) is a simple picture-book introduction to Revere’s life for ages 5-8.
 imgres-1 Jonah Winters’s Paul Revere and the Bell Ringers (Simon Spotlight, 2003) in the Ready-to-Read series is a simple large-print account of how Paul Revere, as a boy in Boston, started a bell-ringing club. For ages 5-7.
 imgres-2 Lane Smith’s delightfully clever John, Paul, George, & Ben (Disney Hyperion, 2006) is the tongue-in-cheek picture-book story of John Hancock (“a bold lad”), Paul Revere (“a noisy lad”), George Washington (“an honest lad”), and Ben Franklin (“a clever lad”) – plus “Independent Tom” Jefferson. A helpful appendix is titled “Taking Liberties: Wherein we set the record straight with ye olde True or False section.” For ages 5-9.
 imgres-3 Dennis Brindell Fradin’s Let It Begin Here! (Walker Children’s Books, 2009) is the story of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, beginning with Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride. Included are an hour-by-hour timetable of the battle (“9:30 PM: Paul Revere learns the British army is marching…”), a list of Who’s Who on both sides, and a map. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-4 Augusta Stevenson’s Paul Revere: Boston Patriot (Aladdin, 1986) – one of the red-white-and-blue-covered Childhood of Famous Americans series – is a fictionalized account of Paul Revere’s childhood through his teen years when he began carrying secret messages for Boston’s pro-Revolution activists. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-5 By the wonderful Jean Fritz, And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? (Puffin, 1996) is a superb biography, fill with human interest and real people – in short, history as it ought to be told. For ages 7-10.
See a complete annotated list of Jean Fritz’s terrific history books here.
 imgres-6 Roberta Edwards’s 112-page Who Was Paul Revere? (Grosset & Dunlap, 2011) is a short chapter biography that begins with Paul’s first plunge into business – as a boy, he and three friends became paid bell-ringers for Boston’s Old North Church. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-7 By Esther Forbes, America’s Paul Revere (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1990), illustrated with vivid paintings, is an excellent 48-page account of Revere’s life and famous ride. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-8 James Cross Giblin’s The Many Rides of Paul Revere (Scholastic, 2007) is a well-researched biography, illustrated with period prints, paintings, maps and documents, and photos of artifacts. The book begins with Paul’s childhood – he was the son of a French immigrant, Apollos Rivoire – and continues through his multifaceted career as a silversmith and his involvement in the Revolution (during which he made not just one, but many, rides). For ages 8-12.
From Scholastic, The Many Rides of Paul Revere has discussion questions, activities, and printable handouts to accompany Giblin’s book.
  images-1 By Esther Forbes, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (Mariner Books, 1999) is an engrossing account of the life and times of Paul Revere, packed with fascinating details. Originally published in 1942, when it won a Pulitzer Prize. Highly recommended for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-9 By historian David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (Oxford University Press, 1995) is a truly fascinating account of pre-Revolutionary Boston and the events surrounding Revere’s famous ride. (Nobody yelled “The British are coming!”) For teenagers and adults.

BOOKS: FICTION

 imgres-10 Robert Lawson’s Mr. Revere and I (Little, Brown, 1988) is a delightful “Account of certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere, Esq., as revealed by his horse, Scheherazade (Sherry) – once the pride of the Queen’s Own Household Cavalry and a thorough-going Tory. Sherry is shipped to the American colonies (populated by bumpkins), where his owner loses him in a game of dice to the owner of a glue factory. From there, he’s rescued by Sam Adams and ends up carrying Paul Revere on his famous ride. A great read for ages 7-11.
 imgres-11 Esther Forbes’s Newbery winner Johnny Tremain (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) – originally published in 1944 – is the story of a 14-year-old silversmith’s apprentice, maimed in an accident, who then becomes involved in the American Revolution, meeting such luminaries as Sam Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. An exciting read for ages 9-12.
The 1957 Disney film version of Johnny Tremain is 80 minutes long and rated “Approved.”
 imgres-12 By master historical fiction writer Ann Rinaldi, The Secret of Sarah Revere (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003) is the story of Paul Revere and times through the eyes of Revere’s 13-year-old daughter Sarah. A mix of the historical and the personal, as Sarah deals with growing up and worries that her father’s friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, has too much interest in her stepmother, Rachel. For ages 13 and up.

PAUL REVERE’S RIDE

 imgres-13 This version of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Paul Revere’s Ride (Puffin, 1995) is illustrated with moonlit paintings by Ted Rand. (“Listen, my children and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”) All ages.
 imgres-14 Creatively illustrated by Caldecott Honor winner Christopher Bing, Longfellow’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (Chronicle Books, 2001) combines the famous poem with historical context: included are reproductions of historical documents, letters, and maps, images of colonial artifacts, and drawings that look like period engravings. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-15 From the Academy of American Poets, read Paul Revere’s Ride online. Or see the Poetry Foundation’s The Landlord’s Tale: Paul Revere’s Ride.

 PAUL WASN’T THE ONLY ONE

 imgres-16 Paul Revere wasn’t the only rider. Marsha Amstel’s Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride (First Avenue Editions, 2000) is the story of 16-year-old Sybil’s ride to warn the American troops of an attack by the British on Danbury, CT. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-17 Paul Revere’s fellow rider, William Dawes, disappeared from history. Learn about him at The Midnight Ride of William Dawes.
 imgres-18 Captain Jack Jouett – sometimes called Virginia’s Paul Revere – saved Thomas Jefferson from capture by the British. Learn about it at Colonial Williamsburg’s Captain Jack Jouett’s Ride of the Rescue.
 imgres-19 From Edsitement, Not Only Paul Revere: Other Riders of the American Revolution has information and activities about such less-famous riders as Sybil Ludington, Jack Jouett, and Tench Tilghman.

EVEN MORE…

 imgres-20 The website of the Paul Revere House has a virtual tour of the route Revere took on his famous ride, a Revere biography, and a gallery of Revere-made silver. Click on “For the Kids” for lists of activities, games, articles, and books for children.
The Historic Paul Revere has an illustrated timeline of Revere’s life from his birth in 1734 to his death in 1818 at the age of 83.
From the History Channel, see this great list of 12 Things You May Not Know About Paul Revere.
 imgres-21 From Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, John Singleton Copley’s portrait of Paul Revere shows Revere as an artisan, holding a silver teapot. Zoom features allow visitors to get a closer look at the picture.
 imgres-15 From YouTube, The Ride is a well-done 10-minute educational film on Paul Revere’s ride.
 imgres-15 From ReadWriteThink, April 18: Paul Revere’s Ride has suggested activities and informational websites. For example, kids study Revere’s family tree and make one of their own, and read an account of the ride in Revere’s own words.
 imgres-17 From National Geographic’s Xpeditions, One If By Land and Two If By Sea is a lesson plan in which kids investigate the geography of Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
 imgres-22 From Edsitement, Why Do We Remember Revere? has information, activities, and downloadable handouts on Paul Revere’s ride and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Also see Midnight Ride of Paul Revere: Fact, Fiction, and Artistic License (illustrated with the painting “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Grant Wood).
 imgres-23 Paul Revere, as well as for his ride, was famous for making bells. Also see Paul Revere and His Bells.

GAMES AND ACTIVITIES

 imgres-24 2 If By Sea Lanterns has instructions for making papercraft tissue-paper window lanterns to accompany books about Paul Revere’s ride.
 images-2 From eHow, Paul Revere Craft Ideas for Children has instructions for making tin-can lanterns, dip candles, quill pens, tricorn hats, and cork-and-toothpick horses. (No illustrations.)
 images-3 From the National Park Service, The Patriot Spy is an interactive game in which players navigate colonial Boston, dodging redcoats, and attempting to deliver a secret letter to Paul Revere.
 imgres-25 From Cognitive Kid, Ansel and Clair Ride With Paul Revere is an interactive app in which Ansel and Clair – robots – learn all about Paul Revere. Included are games, maps, music, quizzes, rebus puzzles, and a rendition of Longfellow’s “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” $4.99.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Civil War

 

THE CIVIL WAR: GENERAL

 imgres Kay Moore’s If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War (Scholastic, 1994), written in question-and-answer format, covers such topics as “How did the war start?” “Which states left the Union?” and “Did your home life change because of the war?” A good interactive read for ages 7-10.
 imgres-1 John Stanchak’s Civil War (Dorling Kindersley, 2011) in the Eyewitness series covers the war in 30 double-page spreads, each packed with information, period prints, maps, and terrific color photographs of artifacts. Topics include: “Slave life,” “The Underground Railroad,” “Outfitting armies,” “Great commanders,” “Army camp life,” “Gettysburg,” and more. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-2 Thomas Ratliff’s You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Civil War Soldier! (Children’s Press, 2013) – one of the extensive You Wouldn’t Want to Be series – pairs historical information with cartoon illustrations. Appealingly readable and not as silly as it initially looks. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-3 Also see Kathryn Senior’s You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Nurse During the American Civil War! (Franklin Watts, 2010) (subtitled “A Job That’s Not for the Squeamish”).
From LibraryThing, here’s the complete list of titles in the You Wouldn’t Want to Be series.
 imgres-4 Janis Herbert’s The Civil War for Kids (Chicago Review Press, 1999) – a “History with 21 Activities” – covers the war in chronological order, illustrated with period prints, photos, and maps, along with capsule biographies and interesting facts in boxes. Included are a timeline, glossary, and resource list. Activities include making berry ink, butternut dye, and hardtack. For ages 9 and up. (Also see Projects and Activities, below.)
 imgres-5 By Pulitizer-Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson, Fields of Fury: The American Civil War (Atheneum Books, 2002) is a terrific 96-page overview of the Civil War, organized chronologically from start to finish. Included are drawings and paintings, maps, period photographs, and Quick Facts boxes. An excellent resource for ages 9-12.
 imgres-6 Joy Hakim’s eleven-volume A History of US (Oxford University Press, 2007) is a superb American history series, filled with photos and interesting asides, and told in the form of a compelling and absorbing story. The Civil War volume is titled War, Terrible War. This is history as it ought to be taught, but usually isn’t. Highly recommended for ages 10 and up.
 imgres-7 Don Nardo’s Civil War Witness (Compass Point Books, 2013) in the Captured History series (in which the central theme is how photographs can change the world) is an account of how photographer Matthew Brady documented the Civil War, illustrated with Brady’s own photographs. For ages 10 and up. For other titles in the series, see Capstone Classroom.
 imgres-8 Steve Sheinkin’s 250-page Two Miserable Presidents (Roaring Brook Press, 2008) aims to tell “The Amazing, Terrible, and Totally True Story of the Civil War.” The two miserable presidents are Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis; and Sheinkin does a good job of explaining the big picture and integrating the interesting stories that bring history to life. (It begins with Congressman Preston Brooks of SC about to bean Senator Charles Sumner of MA with his cane.) A good pick for ages 10-14.
 imgres-9 Jim Murphy’s The Boys’ War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993) is an account of the experiences of boys ages 16 or younger who fought in the Civil War, based on diaries, journals, memoirs, and letters – beginning with “So I Became a Soldier” to “We’re Going Home.” Illustrated with period photographs. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-10 Stephanie Fitzgerald’s 64-page The Split History of the Civil War (Compass Point Books, 2012) is actually two books in one, one written from the Union point of view, the other from that of the Confederacy. Chapter 1 from the Union perspective, for example, is titled “1861: Insurrection!” while Chapter 1 from the Confederate perspective is “1861: A Quest for Independence.” Included are quotations and period photos. A discussion promoter for ages 10-14.
From the Smithsonian, this annotated Civil War Timeline begins in 1859, with John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.

THE CIVIL WAR: SPECIFIC TOPICS

 imgres-12 Candice F. Ransom’s Willie McLean and the Civil War Surrender (First Avenue Editions, 2004) is the story of Lee’s 1865 surrender to Grant in the McLean house in the little town of Appomattox Court House that finally ended the Civil War. The story features young Willie and Lula McLean; an afternote explains how Lula’s rag doll was taken by a Union officer and eventually, in the 1990s, donated to the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. For beginning readers ages 6-8.
 imgres-13 From the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Lula McLean’s Rag Doll is an online story, told in the voice of the doll, of Lee’s surrender to Grant in 1865. There’s also a photograph of the doll.
 imgres-14 Cheryl Harness’s Mary Walker Wears the Pants (Albert Whitman & Company, 2013) is the story of the unconventional Mary Edwards Walker, suffragist, and one of the first woman doctors in the United States – who joined the Union Army as a doctor and became the only woman ever to win a Medal of Honor. (And she wore pants!) For ages 6-9.
 imgres-15 In Patricia Polacco’s Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln (Puffin, 2014), Michael and Derek walk through a door in a Civil War museum and end up back in 1862 just after the Battle of Antietam, where they meet Abraham Lincoln and bring him a hopeful message from the future. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-16 By Kate Boehm Jerome, Civil War Sub: The Mystery of the Hunley (Penguin, 2002) tells the story of the Confederate submarine that completed one mission, then vanished, only to be recovered in 2000. For readers ages 7-9.
 imgres-17 Fran Hawk’s The Story of the H.L. Hunley and Queenie’s Coin (Sleeping Bear Press, 2004) is the story of the remarkable Confederate submarine that became the first combat submarine to sink an enemy warship. It was recovered in 2000.  For ages 7-11.
 imgres-18 Sally Walker’s Secrets of a Civil War Submarine (Carolrhoda, 2005) is a fascinating and well-researched account of the design and building of the Civil War submarine, the Hunley, its one and only mission, and its recovery over 100 years later (with the bodies of the crew still on board). Illustrated with maps, drawings, and photos. For ages 12 and up.
Read more about it at The Hunley’s Daring Submarine Mission.
The Friends of the Hunley website has a history of the submarine and information about its recovery.
 imgres-19 Patricia Gauch’s Thunder at Gettysburg (Calkins Creek, 2003) is the story of the battle through the eyes of 14-year-old Tillie, based on an actual autobiographical account. For ages 7-11.
 imgres-20 Jean Fritz’s Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln (Penguin, 1993) is a reader-friendly account of the Gettysburg Address for ages 7-9.
Gettysburg by the Numbers discusses what the weather was like during the days of the Battle of Gettysburg, how it affected the soldiers, and how weather impacts battles in general.
 imgres-21 Jim O’Connor’s What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? (Grosset & Dunlap, 2013) has a brief overview of the Civil War and a detailed description of the Battle of Gettysburg and its importance. Illustrated with maps, drawings, and photographs. For ages 8-12.
For the complete list of the What Was? series books, see here.
 imgres-22 Jean Fritz’s Stonewall (Puffin, 1997) is a beautifully written 150-page biography of the Southern general who got his nickname from his stand at the Battle of Bull Run. It appears to be out of print – check your local library. Worth tracking down because Fritz is a superb historical writer.  For ages 8-12.
 imgres-23 By Kathleeen Krull, Louisa May’s Battle (Walker Children’s Books, 2013) is the story of how Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War experiences – she worked as a nurse – led eventually to the publication of Little Women, one of the first novels to be set during the Civil War. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-24 The featured women of Mary Rodd Furbee’s Outrageous Women of Civil War Times (Jossey-Bass, 2003) weren’t all what I’d call outrageous, but they were certainly prominent. The book is divided into four informational sections: Reformers and Writers, Saviors and Leaders, Soldiers and Spies, and First Ladies. Readers learn about Louisa May Alcott, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix, Belle Boyd, and more. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-25 Sally Walker’s Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation (Candlewick, 2014) is a well-researched and wide-ranging account of the boundary that played such a prominent role in the antebellum slavery debate and the post-Civil-War cultural divide. But there’s a lot more to it than that. A thoroughly interesting read for ages 10 and up.
 imgres-26 Lynda Jones’s Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009) is the story of the “unlikely friendship” between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave and the First Lady’s dressmaker. For ages 10-14.
From the Smithsonian magazine, see The Story of Elizabeth Keckley, Former-Slave-Turned-Mrs.-Lincoln’s-Dressmaker.
 imgres-27 By Thomas B. Allen, Mr. Lincoln’s High-tech War (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009) pairs an overview of the Civil War with an account of the technology that was used to win it, from the submarine and the ironclad warship to the telegraph, railroad, and repeating rifle. For ages 12 and up.

 

THE CIVIL WAR IN FICTION

 imgres-28 In Pat Sherman’s Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009), Ben is a young slave boy in Charleston, SC, who has learned to read – though literacy is illegal for slaves. Imprisoned when the war breaks out, Ben uses his forbidden skill to read the newspaper account of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to his fellow prisoners. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-29 In Civil War on Sunday (Random House, 2000), one of Mary Pope Osborne’s immensely popular Magic Tree House series, Jack and Annie – attempting to help Morgan le Fay, librarian of Camelot – travel back in time to the Civil War, where they help Clara Barton, the “Angel of the Battlefield,” save wounded soldiers. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-30 There are many biographies of Clara Barton, Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross. For ages 4-8, see Patricia Polacco’s picture book Clara and Davie (Scholastic, 2014); for ages 6-10, the TIME for Kids series includes the 48-page Clara Barton: Angel of the Battlefield (HarperCollins, 2008), illustrated with period and modern photographs.
For teenagers and adults, see historian Stephen Oates’s comprehensive Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War (Free Press, 1995).
 imgres-31 In Lauren Tarshis’s I Survived: Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 (Scholastic, 2013) – one of the I Survived series – eleven-year-old Thomas and his five-year-old sister, Birdie, have escaped from slavery and are headed north, following the North Star. The two are adopted by a regiment of Union soldiers – and end up in Pennsylvania at the bloody Battle of Gettysburg. For ages 7-10.
Check out the complete list of the I Survived books here and take a quiz to test your survival skills.
 imgres-32 In Cheryl Harness’s Ghosts of the Civil War (Simon & Schuster, 2004), Lindsey – who has no interest in the Civil War – meets the ghost of young Willie Lincoln and ends up taking a personal tour of the war and its times. The book is packed with information – timelines, annotated maps, fact sidebars – and the dialogue is delivered in cartoon bubbles. A lot of interesting detail in 48 pages for ages 7-10.
 imgres-33 In Laurie Myers’s Escape by Night (Henry Holt and Company, 2011), 10-year-old Tommy and his sister Annie have been watching soldiers arrive in their Georgia town, where the local church has been turned into a hospital for the war-wounded. One of the soldiers drops his notebook and Tommy sends his dog to fetch it. He returns it to its owner – a soldier named Red – and a friendship begins. Soon, however, Tommy realizes that Red is actually a Union soldier – and he must make a decision based on his loyalties and his changing attitudes toward slavery and the war. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-34 In Trinka Hakes Noble’s The Last Brother (Sleeping Bear Press, 2006), 11-year-old Gabe is a bugler for the Union troops at the Battle of Gettysburg, while his older brother Davy – his “last brother,” Gabe has already lost two to the war – is in the thick of the fray. Before the battle begins, Gabe meets Orlee, a young bugler from Mississippi, and the two boys discover that, despite their opposite allegiances, they have a lot in common. Suddenly Gabe has questions about loyalties to family, friends, and country – and when the order comes to sound the “Charge!,” he has to make a decision. For ages 7-11.
The Last Brother is a detailed teacher’s guide to accompany the book, with exercises and activities. Some are more appealing than others – “Soldier Math,” for example, includes such unexciting problems as “Gabe practice the bugle for 3 hours each morning and 2 hours each evening. How many hours did he practice each week?” Other projects include making a Civil War diorama, writing an entry in Gabe’s journal, designing a medal for a bugler, and locating key sites from the Battle of Gettysburg on a map.
 imgres-35 Patricia Polacco’s Pink and Say (Philomel, 1994) is based on the true story of a pair of teenaged soldiers. Pink, an African-American, finds Say left for dead on a Georgia battlefield, and carries him home to his mother, who nurses him back to health. Pink’s mother is killed by marauders, and the two boys – later captured – end up in Andersonville Prison, where Pink is hanged, but Say survives to tell their story. A powerful, but heart-wrenching, tale for ages 8 and up.
 imgres-36 “Seeing the elephant” was 19th-century slang for a first experience of battle. In Pat Hughes’s Seeing the Elephant: A Story of the Civil War (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2007), 10-year-old Izzie’s two older brothers are off to fight for the Union. Izzie wants desperately to go too – but when he meets a wounded rebel soldier at the hospital where his Aunt Bell works as a nurse, he learns that war is far more complicated than he had believed. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-37 Barry Denenberg’s When Will This Cruel War Be Over? The Diary of Emma Simpson (Scholastic, 2011) in the Dear America series is the story in Emma’s words of life in Virginia during the days of the Civil War, dealing with hardship and scarcity, the absence of her father, the death of her brother. “I never realized how happy I was until this war besieged our land,” Emma writes. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-38 In Patricia Beatty’s Turn Homeward, Hannalee (HarperCollins, 1999), 12-year-old Hannalee is one of 2000 Georgia millworkers forcibly sent to work in the North after General Sherman passes through town and burns the mill. Hannalee is determined to find her younger brother and to return home to her mother. Based on true historical events. There’s a sequel, set in 1865: Be Ever Hopeful, Hannalee. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-39 In Carolyn Reader’s award-winning Shades of Gray (Aladdin, 1999), 12-year-old Will has lost his entire family in the Civil War, and now is being sent to live on a farm with unknown relatives.  There he meets his Uncle Jed, who has refused to fight for the Confederacy. Will considers him to be a coward and a traitor – until he gradually comes to see that there are many kinds of courage, For ages 8-12.
 imgres-40 In Rodman Philbrick’s The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (Scholastic, 2011), Homer’s wicked guardian, Uncle Squint, has sold his older brother, Harold, to the Union Army, to take the place of a rich man’s son. Home, who has a talent for telling whoppers, sets out to rescue him, having adventures along the way with a host of colorful characters, among them a pair of repulsive slave catchers, a kindly Quaker, and the suspect Professor Fleabottom, owner of a medicine show called the Caravan of Miracles. Homer is accused of spying, but escapes in a hot-air balloon; finally he finds his brother and the pair end up fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg under the command of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. A great story for ages 9-12.
 imgres-41 In Avi’s Iron Thunder (Disney-Hyperion, 2009), 13-year-old Tom takes a job in the Brooklyn, NY, ironworks after his father is killed fighting for the Union. There he becomes friends with inventor John Ericsson, who is building a remarkable ironclad ship, the Monitor, destined to battle the Confederate Merrimac. Tom’s association with Ericsson makes him a target for Confederate spies; to escape, he ends up living on board the boat – and sailing with her when she heads for her great sea battle. For ages 9-13.
 imgres-42 Irene Hunt’s Across Five Aprils (Berkley, 2002) is the story of young Jethro Creighton through the years – five Aprils – of the Civil War, as his brothers and teacher leave to fight for either the Union or the Confederacy.  A good discussion book for ages 10 and up.
 imgres-43 Paul Fleischman’s Bull Run (HarperCollins, 1995) is a fascinating account of the terrible Civil War battle, told from sixteen different points of view (black and white, male and female, Union and Confederate). Excellent for ages 10 and up.
 imgres-44 By Craig Crist-Evans, Moon Over Tennessee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003), illustrated with wood engravings by Bonnie Christensen, is a free-verse “diary” of a 13-year-old farm boy from Tennessee who goes with his father when he joins the Confederate army, and stays with him until his father’s death at the Battle of Gettysburg. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-45 Seymour Reit’s Behind Rebel Lines (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001) is the incredible (true) story of Emma Edmonds who disguised herself as a man and joined the Union Army – and later became a spy, working behind enemy lines. A suspenseful read for ages 12 and up.
 imgres-46 Ann Rinaldi’s The Last Silk Dress (Starfire, 1990), set in the Civil War, is a story of conflicting loyalties. Fourteen-year-old Susan does her best to help the Confederacy, by collecting silk dresses to make a reconnaissance balloon to spy on the enemy forces. Then she meets her scandalous brother Lucien – who has long been banished from the family – and her views of the war begin to change. For ages 12 and up.
Other Civil-War-era books by Ann Rinaldi include Leigh Anne’s Civil War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), My Vicksburg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), The Last Full Measure (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), and The Girl in Blue (Scholastic, 2005).
 imgres-47 In James Collier’s With Every Drop of Blood (Laurel Leaf, 1996), 14-year-old Johnny – the book’s narrator – has promised his father (now dead of war wounds) that he’ll stay on the family farm in Virginia. Instead, he embarks on a dangerous mission to smuggle food into besieged Richmond, and is captured by black Union soldiers. One of these – Cush – is about Johnny’s age and eventually the boys develop a friendship. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-48 Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone with the Wind (Scribner, 2011) is the story of Scarlett O’Hara – beautiful, selfish, spoiled, and brave – raised in luxury on a plantation and then plunged into the horrors of the Civil War. A wonderful read for ages 13 and up.
 images The 1939 movie version of Gone With the Wind, starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, is rated PG.
From Carol Hurst’s Literature Site, The Civil War in Children’s Literature is an overview of recommended books with Civil War themes, with some extension suggestions.

CIVIL WAR LESSON PLANS

 imgres-49 From the Civil War Trust, Civil War Lesson Plans is a great collection for a range of ages, categorized by Elementary, Middle, and High School. Sample titles: “Civil War Animal Mascots,” “Civil War Reader’s Theater,” Map the Civil War,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and “Civil War Medicine.”
Teachnology’s Civil War Lesson Plans is a long list, including such titles as “Civil War Battle Map,” “Deciphering Morse Code,” “The Cost of War,” and more.
 banner_civilwar From inventive teacher Mr. Donn, Civil War has a collection of lesson plans and unit studies, most targeted at elementary- and middle-grade-level students.
 imgres-50 From the Tennessee State Museum, The Life of a Civil War Soldier is a multi-part lesson plan targeted at grades 5-12 in which kids variously study the war through period music, personal items (what did soldiers carry with them?), and letters home. Included are printable student worksheets, song lyrics, and period letters. (Also see Music and Poetry, below.)
 imgres-51 From the American Numismatic Association, Money and the Civil War is an upper-elementary-level lesson plan on money, mints, and maps at the time of the Civil War. Included is a list of vaguely connected arithmetic problems.
 women1 From Scholastic, Uncommon Soldiers: Women During the Civil War is a collection of projects and activities, many with associated reading suggestions, on women’s history in the Civil War era.

PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES

 imgres-52 Dover Publications sells several inexpensive annotated coloring books with Civil War themes, among them The Story of the Civil War Coloring Book, Civil War Uniforms Coloring Book, From Antietam to Gettysburg: A Civil War Coloring Book, Famous Women of the Civil War Coloring Book, and (for fans of Scarlett O’Hara) Civil War Fashions Coloring Book.
 imgres-53 For paper-doll fans, Dover Publications has several Civil-War-era books, among them American Family of the Civil War Era, Southern Belles, and Abraham Lincoln and His Family.
 imgres-54 Maxine Anderson’s Great Civil War Projects You Can Build Yourself (Nomad Press, 2005) is divided into two major sections: “On the Battlefield” and “On the Homefront.” Battlefield projects include making a Civil War bugle – you’ll need a garden hose, duct tape, and a funnel; constructing a pinhole camera (while learning all about famous photographer Matthew Brady); building a model ironclad and paddlewheeler; making a periscope and a working telegraph; stitching a signal flag and learning how to send messages with it; cooking a batch of hardtack; and making your own Union or Confederate uniforms. (First visit a thrift shop to look for old blue or gray suit jackets, Anderson suggests.) Homefront projects are equally inventive, among them making berry ink and homemade paper; stitching a four-patch quilt and a rag doll; making dried apples and molasses taffy; designing a Scarlett-O’Hara-style fan; and constructing a banjo and an Underground Railroad lantern. Also included are a glossary and a resource list of books and web sites. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-55 By the Civil War Trust, The Civil War Kids 150 (Lyons Press, 2012) is a 96-page collection of Civil War projects and activities, intended to accompany the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Among the fifty activities: make your own signal flag and send a message, make your own Civil War map, make “flat soldiers” and take them to Civil War battlefields, locate someone connected to the Civil War, and memorize the Gettysburg Address. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-56 David C. King’s Civil War Days (Jossey-Bass, 1999) (subtitled “Discover the Past with Exciting Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes) follows the lives of two children through the four seasons – 12-year-old Timothy Wheeler, an African-American boy from New York City, and 11-year-old Emily Parkhurst, a white girl from Charleston, South Carolina.  Activities include making a pressed-flower scrapbook, a papier-mache bowl, and a yarn doll, learning Morse code, playing a game of mankala, and whipping up batches of hardtack and shortnin’ bread. For ages 8-12.

THE CIVIL WAR ON FILM

 imgres-57 Ken Burns’s nine-episode PBS series The Civil War is a masterpiece. Episodes are “The Cause” (1861), “A Very Bloody Affair” (1862), “Forever Free” (1862), “Simply Murder” (1863), “The Universe of Battle” (1863), “Valley of the Shadow of Death” (1864), “Most Hallowed Ground” (1864), “War is All Hell” (1865), and “The Better Angels of Our Nature” (1865). See the website for episode descriptions, video clips, classroom activities and lesson plans, resources, and more. Highly recommended.
Top !5 Civil War Movies is an annotated list running, in reverse chronology, from the 2003 Cold Mountain to the 1926 The General, starring Buster Keaton.
Check out The Five Best Civil War Films to See, and Three to Skip, according to a Georgia political science professor.
 imgres-58 From PBS’s American Experience, Death and the Civil War is an account of the appalling toll the war took. See the associated Civil War by the Numbers.

MUSIC AND POETRY

 imgres-59 By J. Patrick Lewis, The Brothers’ War (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2007) pairs period Civil War photographs with poems in the voices of slaves, soldiers, both Northern and Southern, army nurses, and families impacted by war. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-60 Poet Stephen Vincent Benet’s John Brown’s Body (Ivan R. Dee, 1990) – described as “an epic blend of poetry and historical fiction” – won the Pulitzer Prize in 1929. It’s filled with wonderful characters, both real and fictional: Clay Wingate, aristocrat from Georgia; Sally Dupre, daughter of a French dancing-master; Jake Diefer, the barrel-chested Pennsylvania farmer; Jack Ellyat, a scholar from Connecticut; and Melora Vilas, raised in the wilderness by her father – a “hider” – who wanted only to avoid the war. A wonderful read; highly recommended for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-61 By Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, who provided the soundtrack for Burns’s The Civil War, Civil War Classics is a collection of songs of the times, among them “Lorena,” “Hard Crackers,” and “Marching Through Georgia” – ending with Ungar’s haunting “Ashokan Farewell.” CD or MP3.
Poetry and Music of the War Between the States has many examples, categorized under Union or Confederacy.

 

 

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Vermont

 

First of a new project – Read Your Way Through Fifty States!

GENERAL RESOURCES

 images-1 Enchanted Learning has basic information on the state of Vermont, a state map, and assorted printable quizzes, coloring pages, and activity sheets aimed at elementary-level kids. The info is free to all; some printouts are only available to site members. An annual membership costs $20.
 images-2 The Vermont Historical Society sponsors both the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier and the Vermont Heritage Galleries in Barre. Visit the website for information on visits, as well as a wealth of information, online exhibits and photo galleries, research resources, and educational resources for kids – including over 200 printable articles, primary resources, maps and photographs, and an illustrated timeline of Vermont history.
 images-3 At the official Vermont State website, see the Historic Sites page for information on all Vermont historic sites, as well as Vermont archaeology, cultural landscapes, roadside historic markers (all 210 of them), and upcoming history-related events. Find out how to take a state History Trek!
 images By Ann McKinstry Micou, A Guide to Fiction Set in Vermont (Vermont Humanities Council, 2005) is an annotated guide to nearly 500 novels and short stories set in Vermont. Listings are alphabetical, by author. Reference.

READ! For Kids and Teens

 images-5 Caldecott medalist Mary Azarian’s A Farmer’s Alphabet (David R. Godine, 2012) has a wonderful woodblock print for each Vermont-themed letter of the alphabet from Apple through Lamb, Maple Syrup, Pumpkin, Rocker, and Zinnia. J is for Jump (as in the hay). For ages 3 and up.
 imgres By Woody Jackson, A Cow’s Alfalfa-Bet (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2003) is a Vermont Holstein-cow-themed alphabet book illustrated with gorgeous watercolors. (A is for Alfalfa, B for Barn, C for Corn.) For ages 3 and up.
 images-6 For many many cow books and resources for all ages, also see MOO! ALL ABOUT COWS.
 imgres-1 Cynthia Furlong Reynolds’s M is for Maple Syrup: A Vermont Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2002) pairs (well, pretty lame) verses (“Alphabet and Animal begin with A/Our state animal says neigh-neigh!”) with illustrations and informative sidebars. Each letter stands for a Vermont feature: B is for (covered) Bridge; L for Lake Champlain; R for Red Clover. For ages 4 and up.
 imgres-2 “Nothing is more important on this farm than hay,” Nora’s grandfather says. In Jessie Haas’s Hurry! (Greenwillow, 2000), set on an old-fashioned Vermont family farm, Nora and her grandparents hustle to load their wagon and bring in the hay before the storm breaks. Other picture-book stories about Nora, her grandparents, and their farm include Mowing (1994), No Foal Yet (1995), and Sugaring (1996). For ages 4-8.
 imgres-3 The year is 1790, the first U.S. Census is underway, and not everybody is pleased about it. In Jacqueline Davis’s clever picture book Tricking the Tallyman (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009), when census-taker Phinease Bump rides into ‘Tunbridge, Vermont, the nervous citizens do their best to fool him into thinking that there are far fewer (or many more) of them than there really are. Finally, when they come to understand what the census is all about, they consent to be counted “Fair and true.” For ages 5-9.
From the Teaching American History Project, Tricking the Tallyman and the First U.S. Census is a lesson plan based on the book, targeted at grade 5.
 imgres-4 The Vermont Folklife Center has a series of books based on the Center’s historical oral storytelling collection for ages 6-10. Among these are Mildred Pitts Walker’s Alec’s Primer (2005), the story of a young Virginia slave boy, taught to read by his owner’s granddaughter, who escapes from his southern plantation, serves in the Union army, and eventually ends up living free on a farm in Vermont. See the website for a complete list of books with descriptions.
 images-7 Kathryn Lasky’s Newbery Honor book Sugaring Time (Aladdin, 1986) is the story of a Vermont farm family making maple syrup, illustrated with wonderful period black-and-white photographs. This is old-fashioned sugaring: Lasky’s family uses horses, sleighs, and sap buckets. For ages 6-12.
 imgres-5 In Natalie Kinsey-Warnock’s The Canada Geese Quilt (Puffin, 2000), set on a farm in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, ten-year-old Ariel is having trouble coping with the changes in her family – first, with her mother’s pregnancy, and then with her beloved grandmother’s stroke and subsequent depression. The resolution ultimately comes from the Canada Geese quilt that Grandma was making for the baby before her stroke, based on a drawing of Ariel’s of a Vermont spring. Ariel – who hadn’t wanted to have anything to do with sewing the quilt – volunteers to help finish it. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-6 A Moose for Jessica by Pat Wakefield and Larry Carrara (Puffin, 1992) is the (true) story of a young bull moose who wandered into a field near Shrewsbury, Vermont, and became attached to a Hereford cow named Jessica. Illustrated with great color photographs. An NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for ages 7-12.
 imgres-7 Alice Turner Curtis’s A Little Maid of Ticonderoga (Applewood Books, 1997) – one of a series originally published in the early 20th century – is the story of young Faith Carew, growing up on a farm outside of Brandon, Vermont, who manages to give Colonel Ethan Allen help in capturing Fort Ticonderoga. For ages 8-11.
 images-8 In Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s Understood Betsy (Avyx, 1986), first published in 1916, Elizabeth Ann, aged nine, is an orphan, living with her over-protective Great-Aunt Harriet and Harriet’s middle-aged daughter, Frances. When Great-Aunt Harriet becomes ill, Elizabeth Ann is sent to live with another set of relatives, the Putneys, on their “horrible” farm in Vermont. There, now called Betsy, she discovers a competence and independence that she’d never known before. Fans of Anne of Green Gables will love it. A classic for ages 8-11.
 images-9 In Marguerite Henry’s Newbery Honor book Justin Morgan Had a Horse (Aladdin, 2006), set in the late 18th century, Justin Morgan, in payment for a debt, gets a small, scrawny colt, Little Bub. He enlists the help of young horse-lover Joel Goss to train his colt – and soon Joel discovers that Little Bub is truly special, stronger and faster than any horse around. Eventually Little Bub becomes the sire of Vermont’s famous Morgan horse line. For ages 8-12.
 images-10 For more information on Morgan horses, visit the National Museum of the Morgan Horse.
 imgres-8 In Julia Alvarez’s How Tia Lola Came to Stay (Yearling, 2002), nine-year-old Miguel with his little sister, Juanita, and his mother have just moved from New York to Vermont in the wake of his parents’ divorce. Miguel – the only Latino in his class – struggles to fit in, and worries that things will only get worse with the arrival of his flamboyant Tia Lola from the Dominican Republic, who wears wildly flowered dresses, speaks only Spanish, and paints the family’s conventionally white farmhouse bright purple. For ages 8-12.
 images-11 Eleanor H. Porter’s 1913 classic Pollyanna (Empire Books, 2012) is the story of the perennially cheerful 11-year-old orphan sent to Vermont to live with her strict and unsympathetic Aunt Polly. Her upbeat disposition wins the hears of all around her,  including, eventually, Aunt Polly. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-9 Robert Newton Peck’s Soup (Yearling, 1988) is the story of Peck’s rural Vermont childhood in the 1920’s with his best friend, Soup, whose creative ideas for adventures often go dreadfully wrong. Included is a great cast of characters, including their sworn enemy, the female class bully, Janice Riker. There are many sequels, all great, among them Soup & Me, Soup for President, Soup’s Drum, and Soup on Wheels. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-10 Lenore Blegvad’s Kitty and Mr. Kipling (Margaret K. McElderry, 2005), set in the 1890s, is a fictionalized story of writer Rudyard Kipling’s stay in Vermont, as told by Kitty, a young neighbor. Kitty is fascinated by Mr. Kipling and his stories from The Jungle Book, but the townspeople have problems with the new residents. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-12 Gail Gauthier’s The Hero of Ticonderoga (Puffin, 2002), set in small-town Vermont in the 1960s, is the story of sixth-grader Tessy LeClerc, who has been given the best class history assignment – an oral report on Ethan Allen – a project that was expected to go to the entitled class star, Peggy. Tessy ends up giving her report over and over again, trying to get it right – and discovering in the process both her own talents and many surprising parallels between herself and the feisty hero of Ticonderoga. For ages 10-12.
 imgres-13 In Katherine Paterson’s Preacher’s Boy (HarperCollins, 2001), the year is 1899 and in Robbie’s rural Vermont community, many think that the turn of the century may mean the end of the world. This is a complex coming-of-age story as Robbie struggles with questions of belief, social change, morality, and growing up. For ages 10-12.
 imgres-14 In Katherine Paterson’s Jip, His Story (Puffin, 2005), set in Vermont in the 1850s, the title character is a 12-year-old orphan, living and working at the local poor farm, where he befriends a fellow resident, Putnam Nelson, a supposed lunatic. Jip’s story coincides with the pre-Civil-War conflict between abolitionists and slave owners. When he eventually discovers that his mother was a slave, he and Put escape, fleeing to Canada via the Underground Railroad. For ages 10-14.
 imgres-15 Elizabeth Winthrop’s Counting on Grace (Yearling, 2007) is set in Pownal, Vermont, in 1910, where 12-year-old Grace and her best friend Arthur have been taken out of school and sent to help their mothers in the textile mills. With the help of a sympathetic teacher, Miss Lesley, they write a letter about the appalling conditions in the mill to the National Child Labor Committee – and get a response in the form of (real-life) activist/photographer Lewis Hine, who arrives to photograph the “mill rats” at work. Arthur eventually deliberately mangles his hand in the factory machinery in an attempt to escape the mill; and Miss Lesley is fired, though leaves Grace with the hope of becoming a teacher in her stead. A terrific, though sometimes painful, read about child labor. For ages 11-14.
 imgres-16 In Karen Hesse’s Witness (Scholastic, 2003), set in 1924 in a small Vermont town, the Ku Klux Klan has moved in, a frightening event for many, among them 12-year-old Leonora, who is black, and six-year-old Esther, who is Jewish. The book is beautifully written in multiple voices, in free verse. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-17 Set in the 1920s in rural Vermont, Robert Newton Peck’s A Day No Pigs Would Die (Laurel Leaf, 1994) is a powerful coming-of-age novel featuring 13-year-old Robert, his father, a pig butcher, and Robert’s pet pig, Pinky. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-18 Beth Kanell’s Darkness Under the Water (Candlewick, 2008) is the coming-of-age story of 16-year-old Molly Ballou, half Abenaki, half French Canadian, growing up in Vermont in the early 20th century at a time when a state eugenics program was targeting citizens deemed poor or undesirable. Molly has to deal with her heritage, her growing affection for an Abenaki boy, Henry, and the tragedy of her pregnant mother, who loses a baby, possibly at the hands of government nurses. For ages 14 and up.
 imgres-19 Sinclair Lewis’s classic novel It Can’t Happen Here (NAL Trade, 2005), originally published in 1935 and set in the era of the Great Depression, is still relevant, compelling, and frightening today. A new president – Berzelius (“Buzz”) Windrip – has just been elected, promising economic reform and a return to patriotism and traditional American values. Instead, he imposes a totalitarian regime, takes control of Congress, outlaws dissent, and begins to enforce his edicts by means of a paramilitary terrorist force called the Minute Men. Many Americans accept Windrip’s rule, believing it to be America’s path to world power. In opposition, however, is courageous Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup. It’s a sobering account of how easy freedom is to lose. Highly recommended (and a great discussion book) for teenagers and adults.
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Robots

 

 

Robots! Think of the robot in Lost in Space (Danger, Will Robinson!), Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robby in Forbidden Planet, Rosie the robot maid in the Jetsons. Doctor Who’s Daleks, Star Trek’s Data. Marvin, the dismal robot in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

See below for robot books and resources of all kinds. Build a robotic arm and a programmable robot; make tin-can and cereal-box robots; and learn about a robot so adorable that people help it cross the street.

READ ABOUT ROBOTS – Fiction

 imgres Heather Brown’s The Robot Book (Accord Publishing, 2013) explains what a robot is made of – one mouth, two eyes, two arms – but it’s what’s inside (a mechanical heart) that counts. A great interactive book with sturdy cogs, gears, bolts, and wheels to turn, slide, and manipulate. For roboticists ages 1-4.
imgres-1 In Ame Dyckman’s Boy and Bot (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012), a boy out gathering pine cones meets a big bright-red soup-can-shaped robot in the woods and the two have a wonderful time playing – until the robot’s power switch is inadvertently switched off. Worried, the boy takes the robot home and does everything he can think of to revive it, including reading it a story and feeding it applesauce. Finally the boy falls asleep. The robot then powers on, only to find his new friend – off. He carries the boy back to the laboratory and attempts to repair the malfunction (oil? a new battery?). Luckily all is put right by the timely arrival of the robot’s inventor. Cleverly funny, with a simple text for ages 3-6.
 imgres-2 Jon Scieszka’s Robot Zot! (Simon & Schuster, 2009) is out to conquer the Earth. The problem: he has landed in a household kitchen and he’s just three inches tall. He battles enemy kitchen appliances and a television set, and rescues the Queen of All Earth (a pink cell phone), before speeding off to conquer new galaxies. The pictures are hilarious, and so is Robot Zot, who talks like the Terminator. (“No one stop Robot Zot. Robot Zot crush lot.”) For ages 3-7.
 imgres-3 The star of Kelly DiPucchio’s Clink (Balzer + Bray, 2011) is an outmoded little robot with red feet, who can make (burned) toast and play music, but lacks the glitzier features of the newer, spiffier robots. Eventually, however, a little boy comes along for whom Clink is just right. It’s a Corduroy story, with robots. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-4 In Margaret McNamara’s The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot (Schwartz & Wade, 2011), an outer-space take on the Three Little Pigs tale, the three little (green) aliens, Bork, Gork, and Nklxwcyz, have been sent off by their mama to find planets of their own – but have been told to beware of the Big Bad Robot.  (“I’ll crack and smack and whack your house down!” meeped the Robot.) For ages 4-8.
For many more versions of “The Three Little Pigs” (and lots of pig resources), see PERFECT PIGS.
 imgres-5 David Lucas’s The Robot and the Bluebird (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008) is an old-fashioned fable (with robot). A robot with a broken heart is sent to the scrap heap where, one cold night, he adopts a shivering little bluebird. The bird makes her home in the robot’s empty chest and when she explains that she needs to travel south for the winter, he sets out to take her there. The robot gives out when they arrive, with the last words “Make your home in my heart” – and he ends up as a home for generations of nesting bluebirds. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-6 In Mac Barnett’s Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World (Disney Hyperion, 2010) – a picture book in graphic novel format – a little girl builds a gigantic robot for the science fair. The robot promptly breaks loose and goes on a rampage through the city. (“I probably shouldn’t have given it a superclaw or a laser eye or the power to control dogs’ minds,” she opines.) Funny and clever. For ages 4-9.
 imgres-7 In Cece Bell’s Rabbit and Robot (Candlewick, 2014), Robot spends the night with his friend Rabbit. Rabbit has a list of activities planned, but everything soon goes wrong – beginning with the pizza. (Robot doesn’t like carrots on his; he prefers nuts and bolts.) And there’s a great scene is which both appear in Rabbit-shaped pajamas. For early readers ages 5-7.
 imgres-8 In poet Ted Hughes’s The Iron Giant (Yearling, 1999), an enormous and indestructible robot with glowing eyes has crashed to Earth and is feeding himself on metal: barbed wire, tractors, and farm equipment. A little boy named Hogarth befriends the Giant and turns to him when a mysterious alien creature – the Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon – lands in Australia. As it turns out, the space creature is really there to bring about world peace. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-9 The 1999 film version of The Iron Giant is rated PG.
From Wired magazine, a thought-provoking article on The Iron Giant.
 imgres-10 For fans of the irrepressible and imaginative Freddy the Pig, see Walter R. Brooks’s The Clockwork Twin (Overlook Juvenile Books, 2013), in which Freddy and fellow animals on the Bean farm rescue a boy named Adoniram Smith from both a flood and his cruel aunt and uncle. Realizing that the boy is lonely, they convince Mr. Bean’s inventor brother Benjamin to make him a friend: a wooden robot operated by clockwork. When the aunt and uncle show up to reclaim Adoniram, they mistake the clockwork twin for the real boy. As always, Freddy and friends are funny, flamboyant, and make for a great read. For ages 7-10.
For many more pig resources (including Freddy’s fan page), see PERFECT PIGS.
 images L. Frank Baum’s Tik-Tok of Oz (HarperCollins, 1996) – eighth book in the original Oz series – features Tik-Tok, a clockwork man, and Betsy Bobbin of Oklahoma, who ends up in Oz along with her friend Hank, a mule. For ages 7-11.
 imgres-12 John Olander’s steampunk-ish My Robots (Two Lions, 2012) purports to be notes on the robots made by genius inventor Lady Regina Bonquers III (who disappeared in 1972). The book is designed like a scrapbook, crammed with photos, notes, sketches, newspaper clippings, and souvenirs. A fun read for ages 8-12.
 imgres-13 By Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith, Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage (Quirk Books, 2014) features Nick and Tesla, 11-year-old sleuths who solve mysteries using science. In this book – one of a series – they nab a criminal mastermind using robots. Instructions for building four different robots are included in the book, among them the Semi-Invisible Bottle Bot, for which you’ll need (among other things) two wire coat hangers and a 2-liter plastic water bottle. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-14 Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007) features 12-year-old Hugo, an orphan who lives secretly in the Paris train station, an incredible automaton in the form of a writing man, and Georges Melies, a master of early silent film. A terrific read for ages 9-12.
 imgres-15 Hugo, the 2011 film version of the book, was directed by Martin Scorsese. Rated PG.
 images-1 Selznick’s automaton is based on The Writer, an automaton built by Pierre Jaquet-Droz in the late 1770’s and believed to be the oldest example of a computer.
 imgres-16 A similar automaton, Maillardet’s Draughtsman-Writer, dates to the same period. It is now in the Franklin Institute science museum in Philadelphia.
 imgres-17 Gary Blackwood’s The Curiosity (Dial, 2014) is the story of Rufus, a 12-year-old chess prodigy, recruited by a sleazy showman to operate a chess-playing automaton called the Turk. History, mystery, and suspense for ages 9-12.
 imgres-18 John Bellairs’s books are Gothic novels for kids: creepy, dark, and exciting. In The Eyes of the Killer Robot (Bantam, 1994), starring Johnny Dixon, evil wizard Evaristus Sloane plans to bring a robot to life – using Johnny’s eyes. Available for Kindle and at libraries. (If you get hooked, all the Bellairs books are available for Kindle. The series was continued by Brad Strickland after Bellairs’s death, but the Strickland books lack the snap of the originals.) For ages 9-12.
 imgres-19 In Evan Kuhlman’s Brother from a Box (Atheneum, 2013), Matt’s “brother” is a French robot named Norman, created by his genius computer scientist father. There’s humor and suspense – Norman catches a computer virus and goes nuts; a pair of sinister strangers attempt to steal him – but there’s food for thought here too. Matt, for example, discovers that Norman resembles a son his parents lost years ago. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-20 In roboticist Daniel Wilson’s sci-fi adventure A Boy and His Bot (Bloomsbury USA, 2011),  young Code Lightfall falls through a hole in an ancient mound in Oklahoma and ends up in the Greater Mekhos Co-Prosperity Sphere, inhabited entirely by robots. (It was set up centuries ago as a science experiment.) Now the deadly (and squidlike) Immortalis is attempting to take over both Mekhos and Earth, and Code – with a pair of robot friends – sets out to save both. He’s also searching for his lost grandfather. For ages 10-13.
 imgres-21 In Greg van Eekhout’s post-apocalyptic The Boy at the End of the World (Bloomsbury USA, 2012), Fisher – who may be the last living person on Earth – sets off on a quest with Click, the robot, a pygmy mammoth, and a talking prairie dog to find others of his kind. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-27 In Helen Fox’s Eager (Yearling, 2006), set in a high-tech future England, Grumps, the old-fashioned robot belonging to Gavin and Fleur Bell’s family, is running down, and they can’t afford one of the new state-of-the-art BDC4s. A helpful scientist friend then loans them EGR3, known as Eager, an unusual little robot who is able to learn and feel emotions like a human child. Together, the children and Eager uncover a plot by the sinister BDC4 robots to rebel against their owners and take over the world. The book raises questions about what it means to be human and the dangers of technology. A discussion promoter for ages 11-14.
 imgres-23 In Kurtis Scaletta’s The Winter of the Robots (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013), set in Minneapolis, Jim – the narrator – sick of playing second fiddle to his science geek friend Oliver, has decided to partner for the science fair with Rocky, a girl who wants to study otters. Then, along with Oliver and his new science partner, Dmitri, the kids begin to investigate a peculiar junkyard (on the site of a former research company) and discover a population of fierce feral self-programming robots. To combat these, the kids create battle bots of their own. An exciting read for ages 11-14.
 imgres-24 Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot (Spectra, 2008) introduces the famous “Three Laws of Robotics:” (1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm. (2) A robot must obey orders give to it by humans except where such orders conflict with the First Law. (3) A robot must protect its own existence as along as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. He follows up with a terrific series of interlinked robot stories. Two sequels. Highly recommended for ages 12 and up.
 imgres-25 The 2004 film I, Robot is sort of based on parts of the book. Rated PG-13.
 imgres-26 The title story of Ray Bradbury’s short-story collection I Sing the Body Electric! (William Morrow, 1998) is a tale of how a robotic grandmother comes to comfort a family of grieving children. It’s a lovely story and if you can track down the 1982 television movie version – “The Electric Grandmother” starring Maureen Stapleton – even better.
 imgres-28 In Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives (William Morrow, 2002), protagonist Joanna and family move to the little town of Stepford where she soon notices that all the women are turning into gorgeous and submissive housewives. Feminist issues and robots. A cool read for ages 13 and up.
 imgres-29 In Philip K. Dick’s dystopic post-World-War-Terminus sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Del Ray, 1996), Rick Deckard, the main character, is a bounty hunter, tracking androids – which is difficult, because the androids are nearly impossible to tell from human beings. (The crucial difference: androids lack empathy.) Decakard is also broke, and can’t afford an organic pet – the ultimate in status symbols. Instead he owns an electric sheep. A thought-provoking read for ages 13 and up.
The 1982 film Blade Runner is loosely (very loosely) based on the PKD’s book. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard. Rated R (for violence).
 imgres-30 First, THIS IS NOT REAL, even though it looks real. A robot named Boilerplate did not charge up San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders or visit the South Pole. Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett’s Boilerplate (Harry N. Abrams, 2009) purports to be the story of “History’s Mechanical Marvel” – a robot soldier named Boilerplate, invented in 1893, and subsequently sharing the stage with everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Lawrence of Arabia. Wonderful creative graphics (and a testimony to Photoshop). For teenagers and adults.
 images-2 Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (Penguin Classics, 2004) is the science fiction play, originally written in 1920, that first introduced the word “robot.” The initials stand for Rossum’s Universal Robots, a robot-making factory. Issues of justice, power, and the effect of advanced technology on humanity. For ages 13 and up.
Read R.U.R. online here.
 imgres-31 Best Robot Science Fiction is an annotated list of 25 favorite sci-fi books featuring robots.

READ ABOUT ROBOTS – Nonfiction

 imgres-32 Clive Gifford’s Robots (Atheneum Books, 2008) is an informative non-fiction account of the many different types of robots and their abilities. Learn about underwater robots, humanoid robots, medical robots, space robots, and spy robots. (An earlier version of the book cover was much friendlier, with a cute robotic giraffe.) For ages 5-9.
 imgres-33 Helaine Becker’s Zoobots (Kids Can Press, 2014) is a fascinating account of robots based on wild animals, with illustrations of the actual animal and its paired zoobot, and explanations of the zoobot’s structure and function. For example, learn about robots based on pygmy shrews, snakes, and jellyfish. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-34 Learn more about zoobots at Popular Science’s Animal Robotics and 5 Robots That Look, Act, and Are Designed Like Animals. (Robot sea turtles, hummingbirds, squirrels, fish, flies, and more.)
 imgres-35 Roger Bridgman’s Robot (Dorling Kindersley, 2004) in the Eyewitness series features a different robotic topic on each double-page spread, among these Fictional Robots, Robot Ancestors, Artificial Intelligence, Robots in Industry, Animatronics, and Cyborgs. Illustrated with wonderful color photographs. For age 8-12.
 imgres-36 Kathy Ceceri’s 128-page Robotics (Nomad Press, 2012) is a terrific introduction to the science and technology of robots. Included are a reader-friendly text, Fun Facts boxes, lists of words to know, and 20 great projects, among them a Wobblebot, a Passive Dynamic Mini Walker, and a Robotic Arm. For ages 8-12.
 images-3 By Gaby Wood, Edison’s Eve (Anchor, 2003) – subtitled “A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life” – is a reader-friendly history of robotics. The Eve of the title refers to Thomas Edison’s attempt to capture the American toy market with a talking doll. (He failed; the doll was creepy.) A thoroughly interesting read for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-37 Tom Standage’s The Turk (Berkley Trade, 2003) is the story of Wolfgang von Kempelen’s marvelous chess-playing automaton – a robotic creation that thrilled the world and inspired both the computer and the modern detective story. For teenagers and adults. (Also see Gary Blackwood’s The Curiosity, above.)
 images-4 From The Atlantic magazine, The Robot Will See You Now is a 2013 article by Jonathan Cohn on medical robots.
From How Stuff Works, How Robots Work is an illustrated multi-page explanation.
 imgres-38 Carnegie Mellon’s Robot Hall of Fame has pictures and information about each year’s “best” robots.
 ro.sm1 OLD robots! See Mechanical Marvels of the Nineteenth Century for such proto-robots as The Steam Man, The Automatic Man, and the Robots of Oz.
 imgres-39 From the RobotShop, History of Robotics is an annotated timeline of the history of robotics beginning with the ancient Greeks.
 images-7 A Brief History of Robots runs from Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (1921) through DARPA’s Pet-Proto and Legged Squad Support System (said to look like a warthog). Video clips accompany each entry.
 imgres-40 From Forbes magazine, 30 Great Moments in the History of Robots runs from the Babylonian clepsydra to the driverless car. Hyperlinked and illustrated.
 imgres-41 From The Tech Museum, Universal Robots: The History and Workings of Robotics is a detailed and illustrated overview.
 imgres-42 Kacie Kinzer’s Tweenbots are possibly the world’s most adorable robots. People help them cross the street.

BUILDING ROBOTS

 imgres-43 Aubrey Smith’s How to Build a Robot (With Your Dad) (Michael O’Mara, 2013) has 20 easy-to-make robotics projects, among them a robot suit and edible robots. Not clear why not “With Your Mom.” For ages 6-9.
 imgres-44 Sean Kenney’s Cool Robots (Henry Holt and Company, 2010) has instructions for building a lot of great LEGO robots (and spaceships). Illustrated with color photographs. For ages 6-10.
 1303695743m_SPLASH See Sean Kenney: Art with LEGO Bricks for more on Kenney’s books and exhibits of his LEGO creations.
 imgres-45 Daniel Benedettelli’s The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Laboratory (No Starch Press, 2013) has clear step-by-step instructions for building, programming, and experimenting with “five wicked cool robots!” For ages 12 and up. (See Robot Kits, below.)
 imgres-41 From Texas Tech University, Robotics Lessons and Activities are intended to form the backbone of a robotics curriculum, using LEGO Mindstorms. A well-done list of multi-part lessons.
 imgres-41 From Popular Mechanics, Build Your First Robot is a complete guide to building your own programmable robot from scratch.
 imgres-41 How to Make a Robot is a 10-lesson tutorial on robot-building for beginners.
 imgres-41 From TryEngineering, Build Your Own Robot Arm has complete instructions for building your own robot arm using everyday materials. Recommended for ages 8-18.

ROBOT KITS

 images-5 LEGO Mindstorms is a series of terrific programmable LEGO robots. See the website for kits, apps, downloads, and building instructions.
 imgres-46 OWI Robotics is a great source for robot kits of all kinds. For example, check out the Robotic Arm and the Moonwalker II.
 imgres-47 Arduino is “the microcontroller that launched a maker revolution.” What can you do with it? Check out this Popular Science article: One 12-Year-Old’s Quest to Remake Education, One Arduino at a Time.
Check out this very friendly Arduino Tutorial from MIT.
 imgres-48 By Michael Margolis, Make an Arduino-Controlled Robot (Maker Media, 2012) shows hopeful robot-builders how to do it. Also by Margolis, see the Arduino Cookbook (O’Reilly Media, 2011).
 imgres-49 The Hummingbird Robotics Kit is a spin-off from a research project at Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE lab, whose mission was to create engineering and robotics activities appealing to middle-school-level girls and boys. The site has instructions, tutorials, sample robots, project ideas, and curricula. The kit costs $199.

ACTIVITIES AND LESSON PLANS

 imgres-50 See NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers for information about the robotic rovers. The site has pages for kids, students, and educators, with many activities and printable resources.
 imgres-50 NASA Rover is an online game in which kids program a virtual rover and steer it around obstacles.
 imgres-51 For many more resources on Mars, including instructions for building your own LEGO robotic rover, see MARS: FROM CURIOSITY TO BARSOOM.
 robot64 Robots for Kids has a history of robotics, a robot image gallery, robot video clips, online experiments with electrical circuits, lesson plan outlines, and quizzes.
 imgres-53 Robots is a terrific iPad app featuring a host of wonderful robots. Find out all about them.
 pr2_grasping_towel_v2_320w From Discovery Education, Robots is a lesson plan on how robots can help people with disabilities. Targeted at grades 6-8.
 imgres-54 From NASA, Robotics Lesson Plans has a long and interesting list, variously appropriate for students in grades K-12. Also at the site are downloadable educator’s resource and curriculum guides.
 imgres-41 From PBS Learning Media, What Is a Robot? is a lesson plan supplemented with QuickTime videos of several different kinds of robots, targeted at grades 3-5. (Requires registration.)
 imgres-57 Play Botball! This is a robotics competition of middle- and high-school-level students. Participants get a kit with reusable components to get them started building their robots.
 imgres-56 The downloadable (free) 4-H Robotics Curriculum is designed for all levels of expertise, beginner to advanced.

ROBOT ARTS AND CRAFTS

 imgres-52 Stephen T. Johnson’s My Little Blue Robot (Simon & Schuster, 2012) is a build-it-yourself book with which kids can made a talking (!) cardboard robot on wheels. All the pieces, of heavy-duty cardboard, are right there in the book. (No glue; the whole thing goes together with slots and tabs.) For ages 3-8.
 imgres-58 Make a great robot from a cardboard box! Viviane Schwartz’s Welcome to Your Awesome Robot (Flying Eye Books, 2013) shows how, via great cartoon illustrations. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-59 Ralph Masiello’s Robot Drawing Book (Charlesbridge, 2011) has step-by-step instructions for drawing a wonderful array of colorful robots. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-60 Robert Malone’s Recycled Robots: 10 Robot Projects (Workman Publishing, 2012) combines a delightful and informative book on robots with instructions and accessories for making ten great robots out of recycled materials. (You’ll have to supply the boxes, paper towel rolls, and plastic cups.) Fun and educational for ages 8 and up.
 images-6 Rob Ives’s Paper Automata (Tarquin Publications, 1997) is a collection of four working paper models (cut and glue together). For example, make hopping sheep and a pecking hen. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-61 Keisuke Saka’s Karakuri: How to Make Mechanical Paper Models That Move (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012) explains the mechanism by which karakuri work (levers, cams, cranks, gears, linkages, and Geneva stops), describes basic paper crafting techniques, and includes five karakuri models to build, among them a tea-serving robot. For ages 12 and up.
 cando-robots-craft-photo-420-FF1108EFA01 From Spoonful, 10 Robot Crafts include some great tin-can robots, a robot in a bottle (a.k.a. “2-liter transporter”), and an aluminum-foil-wrapped robot.
 mask_3_robot_0 Robot Crafts from Activity Village include a cut-and-paste robot, edible cracker-and-vegetable robots, a robot costume, and a robot mask.
 robot-final1 From the MAKE website, see these illustrated instructions for making Cereal Box Robots.
 imgres-62 California artist Larry Wong builds robotic sculptures called Mechanoids from junk. Check them out here.
 imgres-63 Pittsburgh artist Toby Fraley builds wonderful robot sculptures from vintage thermos bottles and picnic coolers. See them here.

ROBOTS AND POETRY

 imgres-64 Kenn Nesbit’s poem, My Robot’s Misbehaving, comes from his book of children’s poetry, My Hippo Has the Hiccups (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009).
 imgres-65 Scryf is a robot that writes poetry in the sand. (In Dutch.)
 imgres-66 By poet Robert Pinsky, see Death and the Powers: A Robot Pageant.
 imgres-41 Robotics Poetry is a great middle-school-level project that combines robots and poetry.

ROBOTS IN THE MOVIES

 imgres-67 Pixar’s animated film Wall-E features possibly the most appealing robot ever, a garbage-collecting bot left behind on an abandoned earth so buried in trash that life is no longer sustainable. Then Wall-E finds a growing plant – which alerts EVE, a reconnaissance robot with electric-blue eyes. Rated G.
 imgres-68 Robots (2005) is an animated film set in a world of robots, starring Rodney Copperbottom, brilliant inventor, who sets off to the big city to try to make the world a better place. Rated PG.
 imgres-69 Transformers! There are toys, cartoons, and a 2007 movie, Transformers. Rated PG-13.
 imgres-70 Robot & Frank (2012), starring Frank Langella, set in the near future, is the story of an ex-jewel thief whose son gives him a robot caretaker. The two develop an unlikely friendship. A wonderful thought-provoking film. Rated PG-13.
 images-8 Robots in Film has reviews, a robot photo gallery, and an extensive library of robot films, listed by year, genre, or robot.
 images-8 Androids and Robots in the Movies is a long, briefly annotated list, categorized by decade from the 1920s on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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